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Concerns rise over hostilities at Florida schools as war in Israel grows

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
 
Palestinians flee to northern Gaza as Israeli tanks block the Salah al-Din road in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Complaints about discrimination at schools have grown as the war has continued.
Palestinians flee to northern Gaza as Israeli tanks block the Salah al-Din road in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. Complaints about discrimination at schools have grown as the war has continued. [ MOHAMMED DAHMAN | AP ]
Published Nov. 29, 2023|Updated Nov. 29, 2023

The big story: Disagreements over the war in the Middle East are playing out in schools and universities around the state and nation, with complaints emerging about acts of hostility based on students’ ethnicity.

The Hillsborough County school district now has found itself under investigation by federal authorities after a parent alleged their child faced discrimination based on heritage while at school. Few details have been released about ongoing cases.

Officials have said they will not tolerate displays of hatred or demonization against religious or ethnic groups, which some said appeared to be increasing. “The bulk of what I see most is from elementary school students,” Hillsborough School Board member Jessica Vaughn said. Read more here.

In higher education, the University of Florida police are investigating antisemitic vandalism at a Jewish student center, the Miami Herald reports.

Hot topics

Peter Licata, superintendent of Broward County Schools, walks with Monarch High School principal James Cecil in August. Licata is now investigating Cecil over questions whether a transgender student at Monarch was permitted to play on the girls volleyball team.
Peter Licata, superintendent of Broward County Schools, walks with Monarch High School principal James Cecil in August. Licata is now investigating Cecil over questions whether a transgender student at Monarch was permitted to play on the girls volleyball team. [ JOE CAVARETTA | South Florida Sun Sentinel ]

Transgender athlete dispute: Broward County’s superintendent said he plans to implement changes to student sports eligibility guidelines after an investigation into whether a transgender student was allowed to play on a girl’s volleyball team, the Miami Herald reports. • Students at the high school walked out of classes to protest the district’s treatment of the school and principal over this issue, WFOR reports. • State officials said they expect “serious consequences” for anyone found guilty of violating state law, the Miami Herald reports.

Sociology mandate: The State University System is considering whether to drop sociology as a required core general education course. Faculty members at 10 schools bashed the idea.

School safety: The City of Jacksonville is on track to pay $1.8 million for a property it had approved to sell liquor, despite being across the street from a grade school, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Pay raises: The Sarasota County School Board approved a contract providing teachers and support staff with raises and one-time supplements, the Herald-Tribune reports. The added money is supposed to begin appearing in paychecks before winter break.

Music and math: State lawmakers have filed legislation to create a pilot program in three counties focused on supplementing math and science lessons with music-based materials, News Service of Florida reports.

Homeschooling: Lee County schools have seen the number of homeschooled students double over four years — a higher increase than the state average, WINK reports.

Getting to school: The Miami-Dade County school district is building protected bike lanes near several schools in an effort to make it safer for children, WLRN reports. A 14-year-old was struck and killed while biking to school in October. • The Bay County school district experienced its seventh bus crash of the year, WMBB reports.

Choices: Saying they lack middle school options, some Hillsborough County parents urged the school district to expand their local elementary school to a K-8 campus, WTVT reports.

From the police blotter ... A Polk County high school teacher was arrested on allegations of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, WFLA reports. • A Palm Beach County teacher has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested three times in eight days, WPTV reports.

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

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