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Florida’s school culture wars disappoint teachers caught in the middle

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Sanders Memorial Elementary School first grade teacher Julie Forsting takes notes on Florida's new "parental rights" laws during a presentation on the first day back to work on Aug. 3, 2022.
Sanders Memorial Elementary School first grade teacher Julie Forsting takes notes on Florida's new "parental rights" laws during a presentation on the first day back to work on Aug. 3, 2022. [ JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times ]
Published Aug. 9

The big story: Florida lawmakers adopted new laws this year targeting what they deemed “indoctrination” in the public schools.

They created rules regarding what teachers can teach, particularly as it relates to race and gender, and placed new requirements on the books and other materials that go into classrooms and libraries. They established new rights for parents to control what happens to their children in schools.

The effort hasn’t just worried educators. It’s also disappointed them, because the underlying message they hear is that teachers have become bad people with an agenda to undermine families and abuse children.

In a recent training about the laws, a Pasco County assistant principal told her staff not to get dispirited. They’re professionals who already do what the state wants. And if complaints come, she added, “We have your backs.” Read more here.

Back to school

School lunches: A Tampa Christian school received a waiver from federal guidelines on gender identity, allowing it to continue providing free and reduced price meals to its students.

First day concerns: Bay County schools are reminding parents of new students to make sure they’re enrolled, the Panama City News Herald reports. • Leon County schools will again allow volunteers into schools, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. • The St. Johns County school district won’t have all its portable classrooms in place for when students return, WJAX reports.

Student health: Florida schools have received no guidance about how to handle cases of monkeypox, Florida Phoenix reports. • Central Florida districts will have limited protocols for COVID-19, WKMG reports. • The Seminole County school district is now requiring parental consent to provide children first aid, WKMG reports.

Bus rides: The Orange County school district is adding more bus runs to several high schools, to provide more consistency in ride times. Officials acknowledged the plan will mean more student inconvenience, WFTV reports. • The Seminole County school district launched a new app to provide bus information to parents. It hasn’t been working, WOFL reports.

Other hot topics

Teacher pay: With inflation high, many Florida educators are taking side jobs despite getting raises, Spectrum 13 reports.

Teacher vacancies: Santa Rosa and Escambia counties are among the many districts still trying to fill all their teacher jobs, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

Campus security: The cost of placing armed officers on Marion County school campuses has risen 20% since 2019, the Ocala Star-Banner reports. • Lake County schools have installed a new crisis alert system, the Daily Commercial reports.

School board politics: A Clay County School Board candidate is using cameras to try to catch whoever is stealing her campaign signs, WJXT reports. • A Sarasota County School Board member says Florida has plenty of “woke” school board members “working from the inside” to protect against growing conservative interests, Fox News reports.

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Before you go ... R.I.P. Olivia Newton John. She topped the charts with “Physical” and “Magic,” but this one was her first big hit.

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