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Florida education news: Vaping, coronavirus and university merger politics

A roundup of stories from around the state.

JUST STOP VAPING: Tobacco use might be down among Florida’s children. But vaping quickly has replaced it. And it’s causing major headaches in schools, where students as young as sixth grade have been caught using their vape pens in the hallways, bathrooms and, yes, even classrooms. Some students have gotten bold enough to just blow the smoke into their backpacks while in class. School officials say dealing with the situation is costing them time and money. So they’re suing. More from Education Week.

WHY CAMBRIDGE? In hopes of providing a more challenging and interesting academic experience for children, the Pasco County school district has turned to the Cambridge International program — and not just at the high school level. Several elementary schools are getting the introductory primary version, as well. Kids in the district’s one existing Cambridge primary campus say it’s well worth the effort.

VIRUS UPDATE: Florida has documented its first cases of the coronavirus. Health professionals remind everyone to keep washing your hands, and if you’re feeling sick, stay home from school.• Colleges and universities have begun canceling travel plans as the illness spreads, the Ledger reports. • Meanwhile, some parents of Asian descent fear their children will be bullied at school, because the illness has been so closely attached to China, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

UNIVERSITY MERGER: A proposal to end the independence of New College and Florida Polytechnic University has sparked a statewide debate about the schools and their value. How did we get here? Here’s a little history lesson. (Not a spoiler: Lots of politics is involved.)

DRIVERS WANTED: The Palm Beach County school district is losing bus drivers in droves, the Palm Beach Post reports. Someone else is paying them better.

VOUCHERS: Supporters of Florida’s tax credit scholarships and voucher programs say students who use them get a ‘great education’ in their private schools. How great? The actual performance is hard to know, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

GETTING AN EDUCATION: The Miami-Dade County school district received a report in the fall that several young children were out playing soccer in a field during the school day. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho went out to see what was happening, and discovered a camp for undocumented migrants — including these children, who had never even seen a school before. You probably know what Carvalho did next. The Miami Herald reports.

ANTI-SEMITISM COMPLAINT: First, the Palm Beach County school district endured a high school principal who wouldn’t acknowledge the Holocaust existed. Now, a veteran administrator charges the district has a much bigger problem when it comes to anti-Semitism, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY: Sure, Florida schools recognize Black History Month and offer lessons to their students. Teachers can go beyond the textbooks, if they want, so long as they cover the standards. Some Alachua County community leaders say the schools need to do better, WCTV reports.

PEPPER SPRAYED: About 80 students were in gym class at a Duval County middle school when someone released pepper spray into the room. Half landed in hospitals, WTLV reports.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Two charter school operators seek to open new schools in Polk County, the News Chief reports.

LUNCH LINE: The Leon County school district backs off a plan to offer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in every school cafeteria, amid parent complaints about peanut allergies, WCTV reports.

TEACHER WITH A TEMPER: The Flagler County school district fired a special education teacher last month after a video went viral showing him physically throwing a student out of class. It turns out this wasn’t the first time he had behavior that caused his bosses to recommend dismissing him. But somehow, he lasted, Flagler Live reports.

BAD ACTS: A Duval County teacher is arrested on accusations of stealing prescription medication from a co-worker’s purse, the Florida Times-Union reports.

TODAY: With two weeks left in Florida’s legislative session, the Senate will spend much of the day getting bills lined up for floor consideration. Its Rules Committee will convene at noon, with a handful of education-related items on tap, including SB 0946 Moments of Silence, SB 1216 school board term limits, SB 1634 parental rights.

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