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Florida education news: Prayer, paddling and a lawsuit on transgender student rights

A roundup of stories from around the state.
Gulf Middle seventh graders Kendall Geraci and Gaby Perez look for matching t-shirts in the school's Treasure Chest, where everything is free for students who need it. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff]
Gulf Middle seventh graders Kendall Geraci and Gaby Perez look for matching t-shirts in the school's Treasure Chest, where everything is free for students who need it. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK | Times Staff]
Published Dec. 2

SCHOOL PRAYER: State Rep. Kimberly Daniels submits legislation that would require all Florida public schools to hold a daily moment of silence for ‘reflection,’ the News Service of Florida reports.

HELPING HANDS: Pasco County’s Gulf Middle School offers its students free clothing, school supplies and other items to help them feel prepared for school.

TRANSGENDER ISSUES: A panel of federal judges prepares to hear a St. Johns County case that will offer guidance on how schools in Florida, Georgia and Alabama deal with transgender student access to restrooms and locker rooms, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The Dec. 5 hearing comes as Florida’s culture wars on the issue intensify. Some Pasco County parents say their district’s LGBTQ protections are coming under attack, WFLA reports. A north Florida conservative group holds rallies and events, saying there should be no such thing as an LGBTQ-friendly school, WUSF reports. A group of Flagler County parents ask their district to improve transgender student rights in schools, WKMG reports.

FREE LUNCH: About 200,000 Florida school children could lose access to federally subsidized school lunches under a proposal to change the program from President Trump’s administration, the Miami Herald reports.

TEACHER PAY: Osceola County teachers take to the streets to call for improved state funding for public education, including higher teacher pay, Spectrum 13 reports. • Many teacher organization leaders and individual teachers are critical of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to boost the state’s minimum pay for educators, the News Service of Florida reports. • Orange County teachers prepare to vote on a second contract proposal after having rejected the first offer, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

EVALUATIONS: The Miami-Dade County school district looks into a different way to determine whether teachers affect their students’ academic outcomes, the Miami Herald reports.

MATH LESSONS: Orange County high schools fall short of their goal to get more minority students to take high level math courses such as calculus, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

LANDSCAPING: The Brevard County school district rents a tribe of goats to attack an overgrown piece of land that machines can’t handle, the Associated Press reports.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: New legislation would allow Florida schools to paddle students, but only if they can get parental permission, WBBH reports. Currently that permission is not required.

REZONING: The Brevard County school district tests a new model of setting attendance zones for a new school, to give families more choice in where they attend, Florida Today reports.

TURNAROUNDS: A Putnam County elementary school with low state test scores turns to academic teaming to help boost student performance, eSchool News reports. • A struggling St. Lucie County elementary school comes under district management after failing to improve its state grade, TC Palm reports.

BACK TO SCHOOL: Brevard County school district administrators and board members spend a day substitute teaching, Space Coast Daily reports.

TOP JOB: Former Seminole County superintendent Bill Vogel says he won’t be an empty suit if selected as Sarasota County’s interim leader, the Herald-Tribune reports. • Indian River County’s new superintendent begins his job on Monday, TC Palm reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Florida Board of Education overrides the Volusia County School Board’s rejection of a charter school application, paving the way for the school to open, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports.

HOMECOMING: The daughter of migrant farm workers in rural Collier County now leads a school in the community where she grew up, showing a new generation of children they can find success, the Naples Daily News reports.

LEGAL COUNSEL: Marion County’s school district lawyer takes a similar job in Brevard County, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

FIGHTING BACK: A Pasco County school resource officer who was fired after his gun fired in a crowded school cafeteria plans to challenge his dismissal, Fresh Take Florida reports.

VAPING: The Palm Beach County school district joins a growing lawsuit against e-cigarette makers, the Palm Beach Post reports.

OPIOIDS: The Miami-Dade County school district seeks other urban school districts to join its legal battle against opioid manufacturers and distributors, WLRN reports.


  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raises his hands after being asked about his relationship with two Ukrainian businessmen during an announcement at a Palm Harbor Walmart Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. DeSantis refused to answer questions about the two men. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    During a news conference in Naples, DeSantis launched into a long-winded discussion of American history, which he said young people need to know better.
  2. Jarrod Haneline, shown when he was named principal of Jackson Elementary School in 2018, has left that position. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    Jarrod Haneline left the position in recent weeks.
  3. 4 hours ago• Gradebook
    Alan Black, outgoing principal of Burney Elementary School, in an image on the school website. [HSPS  |  Handout]
    School leaders will trade jobs in the new year.
  4. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The sides have not set a new date for negotiations.
  5. Tony Pirotta, right, meets with his Armwood High Ought to be a Law student club and state Rep. Susan Valdes to talk strategy for the group's latest legislative proposal. They presented their bill to state senators on Dec. 9. [JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Florida's Baker Act was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a 65-year-old grandmother and a freshman Florida legislator from Miami-Dade County, seen here in a 1965 photo. [Associated Press]
    The law was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a legislator from Miami-Dade County who pushed for the rights of people with mental illness.
  7. Sarah Henderson with her son, Braden, who was committed under the Baker Act after a joking remark at school. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A cop car comes. A child is handcuffed and taken to a mental health facility. The scene is all too frequent at public schools across the state.
  8. Three Armwood High School students testify before the Senate Education Committee on Dec. 9, 2019. Left to right are seniors Maria Medina, Haley Manigold and Madison Harvey. [Emily L. Mahoney | Times]
    “The people who are cynics about politics are also the ones who complain the most,” said one student, who said democracy requires participation.
  9. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
    The idea is part of Florida leaders’ pitch to address low teacher pay, though there is still disagreement over how to do so.
  10. The government program provides free lunches in schools that qualify, regardless of a student's family income. The idea is to erase a stigma.
    One manager lost her job, accused of taking advantage of the program she oversaw.