In an article published in The Orlando Sentinel on April 14th, it is quite evident that Florida's virtual school has been, and still is, in crisis. Former Florida governor Rick Scott, who was also a personal friend, instilled top level authority in prominent Orlando attorney Frank Kruppenbacher. That authority created a clash with the school's top executive, Robert Porter. So much, in fact, that Porter made the decision in August 2018 to launch an investigation into Kruppenbacher's conduct on several levels. In an unexpected turn of events, Robert Porter sadly and very unexpectedly passed away from a sudden heart attack last month.
Kruppenbacher maintains that he is the victim of a smear campaign by the school orchestrated by Porter. While there are multiple acts in question, most notable are the accusations that as legal counsel for the school he exercised great influence over which firms and companies won business contracts. One allegation is that a large contract was awarded to his soon to be son-in-law. Employees also allege that he created a culture of fear and intimidation that led them to believe they would lose their jobs if they "crossed" him. This in turn has led to a mass exodus of administrators and other employees. Last week alone, three more resigned. The names of the employees who filed these complaints are protected by the state whistle-blower law. However, their content is available. There are at least a dozen statements by employees regarding the behavior of Kruppenbacher, and concern as to how much authority was being deferred to him by the board. It was almost as if he had the final say on everything.
The Florida Virtual School received almost $182 million in taxpayer money in 2018. Based in Orlando, it was initially billed as a pioneer in virtual education upon its launch. The owner of the technology firm who designed and installed the operating technology also was involved in a heated dispute with Kruppenbacher regarding renewal of the contract. He too made the statement that "everything had to be run through Frank." The originally seven-seat board of Trustees is now down to just four members, two of which plan on leaving as soon as a replacement is named. One of the new appointees is a Seminole County Sheriff's Captain who described the environment as "a fraternity or sorority."
Any employee, board member or student who has been affected by this investigation and circumstances could benefit by discussing legal options with a knowledgeable attorney.
A high school art teacher at Western High School in Davie, FL has been suspended for three days in connection with a video she showed to her students. The video, which contained images of nude models, has been called suggestive. The classes that viewed it were creative photography classes, and the teacher admitted that she previewed the video before showing it. She knew that it contained nude images.
The Broward County School Board received an administrative complaint. While the actual name of the video was not included, the students who saw it claimed that the images were a featured collection by a photographer.
The teacher was suspended and accused of misconduct in office, incompetence and willful neglect of duty. She is defended those accusations with the assistance of the Broward Teachers Union, and will testify before an administrative law judge. If she is found to be in violation of the accusations, the teacher will likely face termination by the school board. In this particular case, she has taught in Broward County schools since 1992.
An education law attorney can be a great source of advice and guidance in these types of matters. He or she will make sure an educator's rights are fully protected, and that a fair hearing takes place. It is wise to retain legal counsel even if only appearing before an administrative law judge. It is still a legal proceeding that will contain plenty of legal jargon. Make sure there is someone present who will fully and clearly explain to you what is happening as it takes place, not after the fact when decisions cannot be reversed.
A federal judge in Fort Myers, FL ordered that a former middle school principal be temporarily reinstated pending the outcome of her case. Collier County Public Schools have decided to return her to a different role titled "administrator on special assignment," rather than her former role of principal at Manatee Middle School. However, her attorney states this could violate the court order.
In May 2016 the principal contacted Collier County Sheriff's Office to report a teacher after she smelled alcohol on her breath. She suspected that the teacher was intoxicated. The state of Florida opened a case and conducted a full investigation of the allegations. After that investigation was complete, the principal is said to have experienced an onslaught of retaliation, as stated in her lawsuit against the school district. She filed that lawsuit in May 2018, claiming that Collier County Public Schools violated her First Amendment rights and the Florida Whistleblower Act.
The alleged "campaign of retaliation" which the former principal claims to have experienced involved multiple complaints against her claiming that she would target employees and proceed to bully them. It was after that three-month investigation that she was fired.
Until the case is complete, she will return to work at the Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, rather than at the school. Her attorney is currently still investigating whether that decision is in direct violation of the court ordered reinstatement. A court ordered mediation is scheduled for August 30th, 2019 and trial is set in April 2020.
Choosing to alter a student’s grade after a low score on a test or assignment is always a controversial subject among teachers. They want their students to succeed to demonstrate that they are learning the material properly and that they are ready for the next step in the learning process.
However, many school faculties are more concerned about the repercussions of low grades than the benefits of high ones. A student failing a class means that they cannot participate in extracurricular activities, advance to the next class or even graduate. It also makes the school look bad and means they’ll might receive some nasty phone calls from the student’s parents soon.
Some schools avoid this through controversial methods such as having a teacher grade on a curve. However, there are some instances where a student’s grades need drastic changes for one reason or another. In these scenarios, communication between the staff members is crucial to determine what actions are necessary. Failure to inform the right people can result in several consequences.
A principal without permission
Recently, the principal and assistant principal of one of the largest high schools in Palm Beach came under fire after they were recently discovered changing the students’ grades. Between 2016 to 2018, they raised the grades of at least 11 students without consulting the teachers or supervisor. The assistant principal claimed that they did this because the teachers were unfairly grading the students and targeting particular ones out of personal bias. The school removed both administrators from the staff.
While the investigation is still going on, The Palm Beach Post did highlight some of the changes and how they may have affected the school. One student went to having an F to a C in a literature class, while another one in sports went from a D to an A. They also noted that the school’s overall grade was an “A” last year during the alterations.
Talking to the right people
Changing a student’s grade isn’t completely illegal. The primary reason that the principal and assistant principal were punished is because they violated grade-changing policies by not discussing the matter with the necessary parties. They should have talked to the teachers first instead of changing a student’s grade without their knowledge and consent. While they can still change a grade with a teacher’s permission, they still needed to discuss the matter with their supervisors.
Florida is a state where incidents like these are prone to happen frequently from how much the media highlights the failures of the students. While there are some instances where it’s the teacher’s fault a student is falling behind, principals and other administrators should still try and communicate with them when it comes to changing teaching methods or changing a student’s grade. Not doing so could harm their careers and the school’s reputation.
Teachers that are experiencing retaliation by an administrator for their methods should consider consulting with an education law attorney to see how well their case would hold up in court.
The Florida Board of Education has proposed a new rule to exempt school social workers from passing a Florida state teacher test, if they hold a state license in social work. The proposed rule change comes after some Florida school social workers lost their jobs due to an inability to pass the teacher test, even though they were non-instructional staff who held higher degrees.
One social worker took the teacher test six times, but was unable to pass the math portion. However, she held a Master's degree, and was a former juvenile probation officer as well as director of a drug treatment program. When Brevard County School District hired her, she was the only social worker at her school. Because she could not pass the math portion of the test, her employment was terminated. In the aftermath of the Parkland school shootings, social workers are needed for students now more than ever. Just last week a Florida teen committed suicide on the campus of an Orlando school, and the father of a student who was killed in the Parkland shootings committed suicide.
After the Parkland shooting in 2018, the state of Florida committed to making mental health care a priority in schools. To do so, the state legislature even approved $69 million dollars allocated to the schools to help students in crisis. However, they failed to address the requirements for employment of non-instructional staff such as social workers. As a result, at a time when they should be hiring such workers instead of firing, they are losing well-qualified employees.
If you are a school social worker who has been terminated or in in jeopardy of losing your job due to teacher testing requirements, consult with a knowledgeable education attorney to discuss your legal options.
Tuition at many Florida colleges is far from cheap, whether paying in-state or out-of-state rates. However, establishing in state residency means a savings of literally thousands of dollars over the course of a college career. Students who wish to establish such have a strict set of statutes and guidelines that must be met.
All students are required to submit documentation proving residency to their college of choice. The type of documentation required depends on whether the student is dependent or independent. Also, potential students who will be new to the state of Florida will require additional documentation. Enrollment in a college within the state is not sufficient for residency purposes.
The statutes which encompass residency guidelines for tuition purposes are multi-layered and complex. They address a multitude of various situations, including different family living scenarios, part-time versus full-time residency and citizenship issues. Further, they set out determination guidelines for whether a student should be considered dependent or independent. All of these matters should be verified and discussed with a school admission representative in detail prior to any final decisions to relocate or attend a school. No family wants to incur the expense of relocating a child for college only to discover that he or she will not receive financial or tuition assistance due to residency issues.
An education attorney can help make sense of the many layers of these rules. Should problems arise with obtaining accurate documentation, he or she will be able to assist. In addition, an attorney may communicate with admission personnel on your behalf, thereby alleviating undue stress and misunderstandings. The start of college should be an exciting and memorable time. Do not allow admission and tuition snafus to steal your joy. Call for help!
A Florida first-grade teacher, though he will not face any official disciplinary measures, has received strong backlash from parents after reading a controversial book to the class. The book was not part of the school curriculum and was not approved by supervisors prior to the reading.
The book, titled "Last week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo," is a picture book about two gay bunnies. The teacher claimed that he thought it would provide a "positive teaching moment" after overhearing two students discussing two women who wanted to marry each other. It is touted by Common Sense Media as a "cute, funny, and inclusive picture book" with a positive message about celebrating who you are and loving who you want. John Oliver is a comedian, and this book is actually a parody of a book originally authored by Vice President Mike Pence's daughter.
Two parents of students, as well as a grandparent, complained to the Seminole County school district about the reading. The grandparent went as far as to claim that the book was pornographic and had the school transfer the child out of the teacher's class, claiming that he feared for his grandson's safety. The other parents were satisfied with the inquiry and reprimand by the school district.
If a child has been exposed to material or propaganda that is not part of an approved curriculum, consulting with a knowledgeable education attorney can help determine what, if any, remedies are available. Parents should be able to confidently send their children to a classroom with a teacher they can trust.
One of the most common complaints that both students and parents have towards high school is how it doesn’t prepare the student enough for what comes after graduation. They are unsure if they want to attend college or not, and some that go may not know what they want to major in right away. By the time they realized they made a mistake in the process, it might already be too late.
Florida’s lawmakers have recognized that this is a major issue and have recently proposed a bill to try and remedy it. This bill was approved unanimously by a House education subcommittee as they believe it will not only satisfy more parents and students, but it will also help fill thousands of jobs Florida needs to improve their economy in the next decade. While the bill hasn’t fully become law yet, parents should learn what changes that the bill’s creators are hoping to put into the schools.
More relevant options
The new bill would affect both high school and middle school students. Middle school students would take a career planning course which includes a personalized educational and career plan. Since they have more class options in high school, lawmakers are hoping that this would make them approach their decisions more carefully in the near future.
As for high school students, they could substitute certain academic requirements for graduation in favor of more career-focused opportunities. For example, they could take a credit in computer science to make up for a mathematics course that isn’t Algebra I or Geometry. That option has plenty of appeal for both parents and students that don’t find as much value in Algebra II.
Additionally, the bill tries to set new regulations for career dual enrollment programs, hoping to make it more applicable to graduation credits and clarifying to parents what it can do for their children.
The quick approval of this bill by the House shows how passionate Florida’s lawmakers are towards giving students options to make their career paths slightly easier to choose from. Whether or not the bill ends up passing, parents will still have plenty of questions towards what programs and classes are applicable towards their child’s high school and college credits. Consider contacting an education law attorney to help clarify these options and help you if a school isn’t accepting legitimate credits.
The Palm Beach County School District has proposed that only parents or caregivers be allowed to administer medical marijuana on school property. The proposal comes after the school district was sued in February 2019 by a Royal Palm Beach couple who were unable to leave work and return to the school to administer marijuana medication to their epileptic son during the day. The child is prescribed the medication three times per day to control seizures. However, both parents work 45 minutes away and it was their request for school personnel to administer the pills. The policy is set for vote in April 2019.
State law dictates that only parents or caregivers administer medical marijuana, in addition to some other strict guidelines. The child must be listed on the state registry, have a patient identification card on them at all times and would under no circumstance be allowed to share the drug with teachers or other students. However, state law also requires that school districts form their own policies regarding the medication. Therein is where the confusion lies for many families.
The proposal by the Palm Beach County School District also limits the delivery method for the drug. It would only be allowed to be administered in a per dose manner, meaning that any method such as vaping or patches which offer continuous delivery would be banned. Further, the student would not be allowed to carry the drug around the school campus.
If you are a family who have been unable to come to an agreement with your child's school district regarding the administration of medical marijuana for medical conditions such as epilepsy, Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis, consulting with a knowledgeable education attorney can help determine what your best options are to resolve the issues and ensure your child is kept safe.
A sixth grade student of Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, FL is facing misdemeanor charges after an incident that took place in the classroom on February 4th. The student is a black male who was under the supervision of a substitute teacher at the time.
The student chose not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, stating that he believes the flag and the national anthem are both racist. The substitute teacher engaged in an exchange of words with the young boy. She first asked him why he did not go to another place to live. Upon his response that "they brought me here," she suggested that he can always go back to where he came from. The situation escalated from there, with the student ultimately being removed from the classroom by a school resource officer from the Lakeland Police Department after he refused to leave voluntarily. Due to alleged threats made against the teacher by the child, he was subsequently charged with a misdemeanor.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has issued a statement advising that a student "does not lose their First Amendment rights" when they enter school grounds. The Polk County School District released a statement advising that students are, in fact, not required to recite the pledge or salute the flag. Allegedly, the substitute teacher was unaware of this rule.
The child's mother has asked that all charges against the boy be dropped, and that the school system be held accountable for its unjustified actions.