Florida school districts respond to parent book complaints

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Hillsborough County Public Schools holds a hearing on the text ‘This Book is Gay’ is seen Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in Tampa.
Hillsborough County Public Schools holds a hearing on the text ‘This Book is Gay’ is seen Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in Tampa. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]
Published March 29|Updated March 29

The big story: It’s still book challenges.

On Tuesday, the Hillsborough County School Board took up a complaint over the availability of “This Book Is Gay” at one of its middle schools. By the time its 2-1/2 hour special meeting was over, it had decided to ban the book from all middle schools, overturning recommendations from school- and district-level review committees.

Board members heard from 58 speakers who offered a wide range of views, from calling the book pornographic to declaring it a valuable resource for LGBTQ youths needing guidance. At the end of the day, the board determined it was not pornography, but also was not appropriate for sixth through eighth graders.

“Even on our own website it says it is for grades 10-12,″ board member Stacy Hahn said. Read more here.

In Flagler County, the School Board decided to keep the challenged novel “Sold” in high school libraries, upholding decisions by school- and district-level committees, Flagler Live reports. “Stories like this should be told, young people should know that this actually exists. I’m talking about high school age students,” board member Colleen Conklin said about the tale of a 13-year-old girl trafficked into prostitution.

In Marion County, several residents filled their School Board meeting to complain that books they believe contain pornography and other inappropriate materials are in the schools, WESH reports. The superintendent said the district is working to address the concerns, WKMG reports.

In Orange County, the School Board spent hours working on the details for a book review and challenge process, WFTV reports. Board members aimed to give guidance to teachers who have struggled to implement new laws and rules, especially when it comes to topics that have come under state scrutiny such as race and gender.

Hot topics

Superintendents: Brevard County interim superintendent Robert Schiller was placed on administrative leave, with the School Board saying it was investigating unspecified allegations against him, WKMG reports. Schiller recently had sent a 12-page e-mail critical of the board, Florida Today reports. The board put Schiller in the position in December after forcing out the previous superintendent. They appointed a new interim superintendent.

Social media: A bill to place restrictions on social media access in schools moved to the Senate floor, Florida Politics reports. The measure also would require schools to teach students about the dangers of social media.

Sex education: The Broward County School Board rejected a proposed abstinence-only sex education curriculum, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Members asked the administration to start from scratch in developing a comprehensive curriculum that meets state law.

Security: Municipal law enforcement agencies say the Broward County school district has not paid them for resource officers assigned to schools, WTVJ reports. • Flagler County School Board members signaled a willingness to join the state guardian program that allows trained employees to carry concealed weapons, so long as teachers are not included, Flagler Live reports.

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Charter school scammed: The principal of a Volusia County charter school resigned under fire after it was learned she sent a $100,000 check from the school to a scammer posing as Elon Musk, WESH reports.

Cafeteria costs: St. Johns County students might have to pay more for school meals next year, as the district contemplates increasing prices to keep up with rising costs, WJXT reports.

Budgets: The state Senate advanced its budget proposal with $2.2 billion set aside for expanded vouchers, Florida Politics reports. The state House adopted a different approach to education funding in its spending plan, Florida Politics reports.

Today in Tallahassee ... The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Subcommittee will take up a new proposed committee bill on workforce development when it meets at 11:30 a.m. • The Senate Judiciary Committee meets at noon, when it will consider SB 636 on individual education plans, SB 836 on college and university agreements with foreign entities and SB 1004 on high school equivalency diplomas. • The full Senate convenes at 3 p.m., when it is scheduled to give final consideration to SB 256 on public employee unions. • The House Education Quality Subcommittee will review eight bills when it meets at 3 p.m.

In higher education

Data security: A committee advising the State University System Board of Governors has recommended a system-wide ban of TikTok, citing concerns over the security of user data.

Freedom of speech: A University of South Florida employee who was arrested during a campus protest has been threatened with firing. Her union says that’s not right.

University leadership: Another Florida public university might get a conservative politician to run the show. This time, state Rep. Randy Fine is being floated to lead Florida Atlantic University.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Pink took on “Nothing Compares 2U.” How does she compare to Prince and Sinead O’Connor?

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