Florida university leaders tackle free speech, student protests

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Students gather at the University of Florida Turlington Hall for prayer after a teach-in organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine to talk on the the Israel and Hamas conflict on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Gainesville.
Students gather at the University of Florida Turlington Hall for prayer after a teach-in organized by the Students for Justice in Palestine to talk on the the Israel and Hamas conflict on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Gainesville. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 10|Updated Nov. 10

The big story: After making a show of attempting to bar Students for Justice in Palestine from campuses, the Florida State University System walked back its threat on Thursday.

Chancellor Ray Rodrigues noted the groups, which have held protests on campuses, had not caused any violence and were not chartered by the national organization. Rodrigues told the Board of Governors he would let the local chapters remain if they reject violence and Hamas.

Rodrigues also noted that university leaders raised concerns about personal liability if they were to force the organization out. At a candidate debate a day earlier, Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled down on his call to remove the organization, saying they were supporting terrorism in the Middle East. Read more here.

Also at the Board of Governors meeting, the board:

• Advanced a measure to limit discussions about social issues on campuses. Several people attended the meeting to speak against the rule, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Some raised concerns the regulation on discussions could prevent students from expressing support for Israel or Jewish students, Florida Today reports.

• Moved toward removing sociology as a general education requirement, at the recommendation of education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., the News Service of Florida reports.

• Approved a request by New College of Florida to lower its accountability goals from those set by the previous administration. It also confirmed Richard Corcoran as president of New College, Florida Phoenix reports.

• Adopted a new rule threatening transgender staff with dismissal if they use a restroom that does not match their sex at birth, Florida Today reports.

Hot topics

Black history: State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, filed legislation to prohibit Florida schools from teaching that slavery had positive benefits for the enslaved, WJAX reports. The State Board of Education recently adopted standards that include the lesson.

College credits: Leaders of several Florida universities said they would offer credit to incoming students who successfully completed Advanced Placement, Cambridge or International Baccalaureate psychology courses, Florida Today reports. Controversy erupted early in the school year over the AP course, with some school districts dropping it despite questions about how students might be affected.

Friday night lights: A 12-year-old girl with autism who sat on the sidelines as her father coached a Collier County high school football team has been banished to the stands by the school district, WZVN reports. Officials said the decision was made for “a variety of reasons, including safety.”

Safety and security: The Clay County school district has launched negotiations to fold its police force into the county Sheriff’s Office, Clay Today reports. • The Lake County school district is working with county officials to add safety measures at a crosswalk where a student was killed by a bus while riding his bike to Lake Minneola High, WKMG reports.

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter

We’ll break down the local and state education developments you need to know every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

School choice: The Alachua County school district plans to lower the requirements to attend magnet schools, and take steps to have magnet enrollment mirror district demographics, Main Street Daily News reports.

Teacher discipline: The Palm Beach County school district had warnings that one of its teachers might be facing problems long before he was arrested for bringing a gun to school, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Textbooks: The Sarasota County School Board adopted new textbooks for math and social studies, facing little of the controversy that has dominated discussions about books in recent months, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Vouchers: Step Up For Students says it plans to be caught up on voucher reimbursements and payments by the end of the week, WPTV reports. The program has been plagued with delays, and many parents and schools have complained that their children’s education is at risk.

From the police blotter ... A Miami-Dade County school security guard was arrested on accusations of trying to seduce three teenage girls at the high school where he worked, WPLG reports. • A Duval County high school student was arrested on accusations of injuring a security guard during an altercation, WJAX reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... Mr. Monk solved his last case back in 2009, when the detective series ended. But he’s back for one more go round! Hope it’s still fun.

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.