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Florida’s free speech fight rolls on at schools, universities

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
A view of Library West at the center of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.
A view of Library West at the center of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. [ University of Florida ]
Published Jun. 17

The big story: Florida’s public education system has faced a challenge in the past year over whether it honors free speech and academic freedoms.

The University of Florida in particular came under fire for actions such as preventing faculty members from testifying as experts in lawsuits that administrators said might counter state interests. Some professors sued over that issue.

All the ado drew the attention of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which suggested UF’s accreditation might be in jeopardy.

After its own investigation, the accrediting agency found the school reacted appropriately to protect academic integrity. Read more here.

The debate is far from over.

Florida’s new law limiting discussions about race at schools and universities now faces a federal court challenge. And not all conservatives are lining up behind the GOP-sponsored measure, with some saying it limits freedom of speech, the USA Today Florida Network reports.

Hot topics

Teachers with guns: After initially refusing to use Florida’s school guardian model, the Flagler County School Board is looking into supplementing school resource officers with armed teachers and other civilians, Flagler Live reports.

Culture wars: At least 160 teachers across the nation, including at least one in Florida, have lost their jobs because of their stances on controversial political matters, the Washington Post reports.

School safety grand jury: A grand jury convened in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting will recommend removal of some Broward County School Board members, WLRN reports.

School choice: Former Hillsborough County and Florida teacher of the year Dre Graham reflects on his two years as state director of independent education and parental choice, reimaginED reports.

School board elections: The qualifying deadline is today at noon. Keep an eye on your local elections supervisor websites for late surprises. Here are the links for Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough.

Other school news

The University of South Florida’s business college is getting a leadership shakeup. Two new deans were appointed after the school’s longtime leader took a job as University of North Florida president.

Volusia County’s incoming superintendent named her new administrative team. The current interim superintendent will become deputy superintendent in the reorganization, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

Florida has expanded its program for alternative teacher certification. Military service will be counted as experience, WPTV reports.

A Sarasota County teacher has written a book about pandemic learning. She advocates for more training in online education, WUSF reports.

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