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Florida schools focus on tradition, not religion, as they handle holidays

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Oakstead Elementary School first grader Hari Patel, 6, delivers a note to Santa on behalf of his sister while attending the school’s Winter Fest on Thursday, Dec 1, 2022, in Land O' Lakes.
Oakstead Elementary School first grader Hari Patel, 6, delivers a note to Santa on behalf of his sister while attending the school’s Winter Fest on Thursday, Dec 1, 2022, in Land O' Lakes. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 7, 2022

The big story: As schools approach the holiday season, conversations about religious celebrations are apt to occur.

This year, some Florida teachers have expressed anxiety about how to address the subject, as the state has adopted several laws targeting educators over supposed “indoctrination,” or the instruction of opinion instead of fact.

With many of the state guidelines vague, and the threat looming of losing their certification in certain circumstances, educators have shied away from discussion of any “controversial” topics in their classes. That shouldn’t be necessary, though, said USF professor of educational leadership Steve Permuth, so long as they stick to a basic tenet: “Teach, don’t preach.”

Read more here.

Hot topics

Sex education: The Duval County School Board created its own sex education curriculum after rejecting materials it said did not meet state law, WJXT reports. More than 100 people had something to say about the issue during a hearing.

Gender issues: A newly elected Broward County School Board member spoke at an anti-LGBTQ weekend rally, surrounded by uniformed Proud Boys members, WLRN reports.

Race relations: Four school districts and 14 schools in Florida have Confederate memorials remaining, after a push in some places to remove them, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Campus safety: Leon County high schools will add metal detectors as a way to deter students from bringing guns to campus, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. The district has experienced a recent surge in gun violence and arrests. • The Brevard County School Board has proposed tightening its student code of conduct as a way to stop teachers from quitting, WKMG reports. It will meet Thursday to discuss the issue. • An Escambia County high school is launching a “Dads on Duty” mentorship program with one goal being to cut down on campus fighting, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

School board politics: State Rep. Spencer Roach, a North Fort Myers Republican, has revived a proposal to have partisan elections for school board seats, Florida Politics reports.

Superintendents: The Broward County School Board has scheduled a time to reconsider the firing of superintendent Vickie Cartwright, the Miami Herald reports. • Osceola County superintendent Debra Pace announced her plan to retire in June, WKMG reports.

Other school news

The Broward County School Board recently canceled its cap and gown contracts amid allegations of impropriety. Now the board is reconsidering as schools raised concerns about where to get their graduation garb, the Sun-Sentinel report.

A Flagler County teen reportedly got upset that friends went to a school dance without him. He was arrested on accusations of making threats to kill on social media, WOGX reports.

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Escambia County teachers are about to get a raise. They’ll still be the lowest paid in northwest Florida, WEAR reports. The district has yet to meet the state targeted minimum salary for teachers.

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