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Broward may end automatic evacuations on bomb threats, Bright Futures disparity, and more

Around the state: Broward schools’ chief of security and safety wants to end automatic evacuations of schools that receive bomb threats, an analysis of Bright Futures data shows little change in the percentage of black students receiving the scholarships since the program started, segregation is on the rise in Miami-Dade schools, a nontraditional school in Leon County was destroyed by the May 10 storms, and a federal judge rules that a professor’s lawsuit claiming the University of Central Florida violated his freedom of speech can continue. Here are details about those stories and others from the state’s districts, private schools, and colleges and universities:

Miami-Dade: Segregation between white and black students has increased in the school district from 47 percent in 1991 to 61 percent in 2022, according to an analysis of two recent national reports. In that same period, segregation between whites and Hispanics declined from 30 percent to 20 percent. Florida had some of the largest declines in segregation after the 1960s, but the rate has gone from 36 percent in 1991 to 42 percent in 2022. Axios.

Broward: Bomb threats should no longer force automatic evacuations of schools, the district’s chief of safety and security wrote this month in a memo to principals and law enforcement officials. Instead, Jaime Alberti said, the credibility of the risk should be assessed before schools are emptied. As of April 30, there have been 175 threats that caused a school disruption; last year there were 184. A district spokeswoman said she’s not aware of any bomb threats in recent years that were found to be credible. Sun Sentinel. WFOR. WTVJ. Today, school board members will consider a $202,000 separation agreement for former superintendent Peter Licata. The deal stipulates that Licata ceased being superintendent April 16, and his job title from that day until July 1 would be special advisor to Superintendent Howard Hepburn. Sun Sentinel.

Hillsborough: Another school board race is getting heated, this time with two Democrats exchanging accusations. Bonnie Lambert is challenging District 3 incumbent Jessica Vaughn, and at a public form last week Lambert held Vaughn’s arrest photo from a bad check charge in 2000. Each has accused the other of exaggerating their work experience and of bullying. Also running for the seat are Angela Pimento Fullwood and Myosha Powell. Tampa Bay Times.

Orange: Mariana Nijensohn is the rare student who will graduate from high school and college in the same month. The 18-year-old’s commencement as valedictorian from Windermere High School is May 28, and she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in English on May 3 thanks to dual-enrollment credits. She’s the first student from Windermere to simultaneously earn high school and college diplomas. She’ll attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Orlando Sentinel.

Palm Beach: Graduation ceremonies were held Monday for Wellington and Glades Central high schools. Palm Beach Post. A Leonard High School security monitor has been arrested and accused of having an improper relationship with a 19-year-old student. Brandon J. McCrary, 27, told school police he thought she was a college student who was was visiting the high school campus to “finish a few things up.” Palm Beach Post.

Duval: A school district maintenance worker has been arrested and accused of soliciting children on the Internet to engage in sexual acts. Kevin Bryan Pearce, a carpenter for the district, was one of 27 people arrested in a five-day undercover sheriff’s department operation. Jacksonville Today.

Polk: A graduation ceremony was held Monday for Mulberry High School. Lakeland Ledger.

Pinellas: Students from Clearwater High School graduated in a ceremony held Monday. Pinellas County School District. A 16-year-old sophomore at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg was arrested Monday and accused of having a gun on campus. Officers were tipped that the student had the gun in a backpack. WFLA.

Lee: Students from Southwest Florida Christian Academy were awarded diplomas at the school’s recent graduation ceremony. Fort Myers News-Press.

Brevard: High school graduation ceremonies have been held for Astronaut, Bayside, Eau Gallie and Satellite high schools and Odyssey Charter School. Florida Today. 

Sarasota: Pine View School held its graduation ceremony Sunday. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

St. Lucie: A parent’s recent video showing drivers in Port St. Lucie not slowing down or stopping when school buses were picking up students went viral and was brought to the attention of Sheriff Keith Pearson. He released a public service announcement, and also stepped up patrols at bus stops. Several violators have been pulled over and issued $370 tickets. WSVN. Google’s “Online Safety Roadshow” gave a presentation of its program to middle school students at the Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie in Fort Pierce. It offers students how to stay safe online by creating strong passwords and being able to recognize scams. WPEC.

Leon: The two buildings at the nontraditional Grassroots Free School in Tallahassee were destroyed by falling trees when three tornadoes raced through the city May 10. “I was able to get there Saturday morning for the first time to see it for myself, and I was brought to tears as soon as I pulled up,” said school director Kim Weinrich. Repairs will cost more than insurance covers, she said, but she’s optimistic the 40-student school based on the principles of individual freedom and democratic government will be able to open in the fall. Tallahassee Democrat. Godby High School students have had to make up two days lost when severe weather hit the area earlier this month. Their final day of school is now today, just a day before graduation. Tallahassee Democrat.

Indian River: School board members will consider a change in policy to allow a majority of the board to vote to remove the board chair and vice chair if it believes they “no longer represent the board’s interest or carry out their duty appropriately.” Gene Posca made the proposal, saying, “The board majority should have a procedural power to replace these positions. This is a common-sense function on many boards that should probably exist on this one.” Chair Teri Barenborg and vice chair Peggy Jones were elected by their colleagues in November, but Kevin McDonald has since replaced Brian Barefoot, who resigned in February. TCPalm.

Colleges and universities: A University of Central Florida professor’s lawsuit against the school can proceed, a federal judge has ruled. UCF tried to fire psychology professor Charles Negy after he posted controversial opinions on social media. Negy’s allegations of emotional distress and abuse of process against UCF were dismissed, but his claim that the school violated his freedom of speech will continue. Florida Politics. Florida A&M University is adding graduate degrees in aeronautical engineering starting in the fall of 2025. Tallahassee Democrat. Tallahassee Community College reports “significant” damage cause by this month’s severe storms, including a destroyed electrical substation and 400 downed or damaged trees. Tallahassee Democrat. Eckerd College’s graduation was held Sunday in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay Times. The University of Florida has graduated its first class in the registered teacher apprenticeship program, where students earn a master’s degree in elementary education and a professional teaching certification. Independent Florida Alligator.

Bright Futures disparities: An analysis of the Bright Futures Scholarship program concludes that there is a persistent racial gap in the students who qualify for the awards. The percentage of white scholarship winners has declined since the program started but is still over 50 percent. Hispanics get nearly 30 percent, a rate that has tripled in the program’s history. But the percentage of black students winning Bright Futures scholarships has remained stagnant at 7 percent or slightly below. “We’re clearly not doing something right,” said Braulio Colón, executive director of the Florida College Access Network. “Let’s acknowledge that that gap exists. And that it’s been persistent. And let’s address it.” WTSP.

Around the nation: Twenty-six states are suing over the Biden administration’s recently issued changes to Title IX that prohibit discrimination in schools “based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.” The rule is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1. Florida Phoenix.

Opinions on schools: College students who want to go into debt for a degree with almost no return on their investment in an industry in terminal decline have better options than an education major. Matthew Ladner, NextSteps.



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