The big story: The ongoing debate over the content of books available in Florida’s public schools continues to grab attention.
The question often at hand is whether a book is obscene, pornographic or otherwise harmful to children. Backers of the laws passed by Florida’s majority Republican Legislature say the aim is to remove books that sexualize or indoctrinate children, the Epoch Times reports.
With differing definitions of those terms, the sides regularly disagree. How they settle the matter has differed from school district to district.
The Pasco County school district, for instance, announced it would purchase new collections for every K-5 classroom. as a way to ensure that all books have gotten a proper media specialist review. In the meantime, officials are allowing not asking teachers to close down their classroom libraries — unlike some nearby districts — saying that would not be fair to students or educators.
Its decision has rattled some teachers, who say the move limits their flexibility in motivating children to read with books that appeal to them. Read more here.
Like Pasco, the Hillsborough County school district has held firm to its formal process for reviewing books for their content. That includes when parents or other residents complain about specific titles.
That hasn’t appeared to be good enough for some state lawmakers, who have said “obscene” books are on the shelves and don’t belong there. House Speaker Paul Renner specifically targeted Hillsborough over the availability of “This Book is Gay” at a local middle school, where a review team unanimously found the book acceptable.
Superintendent Addison Davis said he would provide the documentation to Renner. Read more here.
By contrast, the Pinellas County school district pulled Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” out of all its high school courses and libraries after one parent complained, without following its board-approved review process. About 100 students protested Friday, saying the book has literary merit, and plan to attend the board’s next meeting to ask for reconsideration. Read more here.
In Sarasota County, meanwhile, the School Board with its new conservative majority is poised to hear an appeal of the district’s decision to retain “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” in school libraries, the Herald-Tribune reports. The book was not assigned, but has been available for children to check out. One mom is fighting to keep the book on the shelves, WUSF reports.
Top teachers: Gulf High School government teacher Kim Theurer was named Pasco County’s 2023-24 Teacher of the Year.
New College: As New College of Florida endured the turmoil leading up to major governance changes, campus chaplain Dwight Henry got the call to pray for the school. Here’s how he responded. • Twenty-five days passed between the day Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his goals for New College and the date of that fateful trustees meeting. The Herald-Tribune takes a look back at the month of events. (Subscription required) • More from the LA Times. • Newly appointed New College trustee Christopher Rufo, well known nationally for his conservative attack on diversity and inclusion, turned his attention to Florida State University over the weekend, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
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High school sports: FHSAA officials are considering whether to require female student-athletes to provide information about their menstrual cycles. It’s raised concerns about privacy, and also about how the information might be used. More from the Miami Herald. • Relaxed rules have paved the way for high school student athletes to more easily transfer from school to school, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Education politics: Gov. Ron DeSantis has placed his imprint on many aspects of Florida education, from preschool through postsecondary. The effects will be felt long after he’s gone, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
African American history: Florida law requires schools to teach African American history, but some observers say most don’t do it well, CNN reports.
Other school news
The Florida Legislature holds a special session beginning Monday. Gov. Ron DeSantis called the session, which will address university athlete name-image-likeness legislation, in addition to changing the role of special districts after Disney opposed DeSantis on a bill that restricted school instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation, WFSU reports.
A cell phone video captured students at a Miami-Dade K-8 school brutally beating another student while on the school bus. Parents are demanding that someone be held accountable, the Palm Beach Post reports. More from CBS Miami.
A Lee County school damaged by Hurricane Ian is ready to reopen. Its students have attended another campus during the repairs, WFTX reports.
The Broward County School Board is poised to pick an interim superintendent. It has three potential candidates, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
Bethune-Cookman University has generated lot of discontent. Students and alumni aired their grievances at a YouTube town hall, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.
From the employee discipline files ... A staff member at a Palm Beach County middle school was placed on leave, accused of using “highly offensive and obscene” language among students, WPTV reports. • A Volusia County middle school teacher was reassigned amid an investigation into reports of unsafe interactions with a student, WESH reports. • An Escambia County middle school teacher was fired after being arrested on accusations of sexual assault and battery against a student, WEAR reports.
Before you go ... For Black History Month, how about the Carolina Chocolate Drops performing the type of tune historically played by Black Americans in the south more than a century ago.
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