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Does Florida’s GOP scandal impact the party’s education agenda?

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
 
Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler, shown at the Florida Freedom Summit in November, has said he will not resign while under investigation for a rape allegation that he denies. The case has implications for the right-leaning education agenda advanced by Ziegler's wife, a founder of Moms for Liberty.
Florida Party of Florida Chairman Christian Ziegler, shown at the Florida Freedom Summit in November, has said he will not resign while under investigation for a rape allegation that he denies. The case has implications for the right-leaning education agenda advanced by Ziegler's wife, a founder of Moms for Liberty. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP ]
Published Dec. 4, 2023|Updated Dec. 4, 2023

The big story: The sex scandal rocking the Florida Republican Party did not wane over the weekend, as party chairperson Christian Ziegler said he would not resign his post during an investigation into a rape allegation, saying he did nothing wrong.

Bridget Ziegler is a member of the Sarasota County School Board.
Bridget Ziegler is a member of the Sarasota County School Board. [ Facebook ]

What makes this an education story? Ziegler’s wife, Bridget, is a Sarasota County School Board member and Moms for Liberty co-founder who has made her mark promoting right-leaning Republican causes in public education, including an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. That she would be involved in a consensual three-way relationship at the heart of the allegation has generated criticism of hypocrisy, as the Herald-Tribune reports, regardless of whether she or her husband did anything illegal.

Outside observers have suggested that the headlines alone could damage not only Ziegler, but also the groups and positions she has advanced for more than a decade. Some of her detractors have called for her resignation from the Sarasota board. Her defenders meanwhile say she’s been unfairly targeted. Read more here.

Hot topics

Transgender student athletes: Administrators at a Broward County high school face “serious consequences” if they allowed a transgender student to play on the girls’ volleyball team against state law, officials say. The investigation could take years, the Miami Herald reports. More from the Sun-Sentinel.

School safety: All Volusia County schools have been provided Narcan and school guards have been trained in its use, WKMG reports. • State lawmakers have filed a bill that would require schools be notified any time an employee is issued a risk protection order, WPTV reports. • The Osceola County Commission will decide whether to add speed detection devices outside public schools to help enforce school speed zones, WMFE reports.

Pronouns: The Orange County school district will allow teachers and staff to call students by preferred pronouns with parent consent, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Electric buses: The Glades County school district plans to replace half its aging fleet with electric buses, WFTV reports.

Construction projects: School repairs projected to cost the Duval County school district about $1.9 billion are now estimated to cost double that amount, raising questions whether the tax created to pay the bills will generate enough revenue, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Charter schools: A Manatee County charter school for boys has put its plans to build a new campus at risk as it focuses on improving its students’ academic performance, Bradenton Herald reports.

Book challenges: The Alachua County school district returned the graphic novel “Gender Queer” to school shelves after determining the person who challenged the book did not have standing to bring the complaint, WUFT reports. • The Brevard County school district decided to leave the book “Sold” on its shelves after considering a challenge, Spectrum 13 reports.

Black history: The Historical Society of Martin County is trying to get an historic designation for the county’s only remaining one-room schoolhouse, which served Black children starting in the 1930s, TC Palm reports.

From the police blotter ... A Lake County middle school teacher was arrested on allegations of slapping a student, WOFL reports. • A Pinellas County middle school student was arrested on allegations of making social media threats to shoot a school, WTSP reports.

In higher ed

Florida State Seminoles running back Lawrance Toafili (9) celebrates after a third quarter touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals in the 2023 ACC Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.
Florida State Seminoles running back Lawrance Toafili (9) celebrates after a third quarter touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals in the 2023 ACC Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. [ SCOTT KINSER | AP ]

College football: Blistering criticisms of college football’s playoff system flew after the snub of undefeated Florida State University. • The University of South Florida will walk away from its design-build agreement for its planned new football stadium, preferring instead to enter a construction management contract.

Faculty departures: Some liberal faculty members have left Florida’s public universities, decrying the state’s right-leaning education politics, the NY Times reports. University of Florida president Ben Sasse blasted the NYT story as anecdotal clickbait, WCJB reports.

Student voices: Tensions are rising at Florida International University after the student government urged the administration to condemn Israel over the war in Gaza, the Miami Herald reports.

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

Before you go ... As top college basketball teams around the nation jockey for rankings, with several facing their first losses, it’s refreshing to see the fun some players and coaches can have in the name of a good cause.

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Spotlight on education

The public is invited to a community conversation about the future of Florida public schools on Tuesday, Jan. 30, at the Tampa Theatre, hosted by the Tampa Bay Times. In the second installment of the Spotlight Tampa Bay series, Times journalists will moderate a discussion by experts, followed by a panel featuring students. Tickets are $20; $10 for students. Proceeds benefit the Times’ Journalism Fund. To purchase tickets, click here.