Education

Stoneman Douglas families pushing Congress to act on school safety

Parents who lost children in the 2018 Parkland high school shooting are pushing Congress to help prevent future school shootings with new legislation that would increase awareness about school-safety measures nationwide.

The “Luke and Alex School Safety Act,” introduced Thursday, is named after Alex Schachter and Luke Hoyer, two students who were killed on Feb. 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The House bill was filed by Florida U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch, Mario Diaz-Balart, Stephanie Murphy and John Rutherford, with the help of Alex’s dad, Max Schachter, and Tom and Gena Hoyer, Luke’s parents.

The bipartisan House proposal is a companion to a Senate bill introduced earlier this month by Florida Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

“This bipartisan and bicameral bill builds on the work of Parkland parents by requiring a dedicated home within the federal government for school security best practices and guidance that will help prevent gun violence and save lives in schools across the country,” Deutch, a Democrat representing CD 22, said in a press release.

Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, said the bill would “create a one-stop-shop for schools, families, and community officials to obtain valuable resources on school safety best practices.”

Here are more details about what the bill would do:

·       Create a federal clearinghouse with information from across the nation on school-safety recommendations, such as threat prevention, comprehensive school safety measures and incident response.

·       Recommendations made by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission would be among those included in the database.

·       Information would be stored within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

·       The U.S. Secretaries of Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Attorney General would review all grant programs administered by their  agencies and identify any grant program that may be able to be used for school security improvements.

— By Ana Ceballos.

Daniel Nordby defends UF student body president facing impeachment

Embattled University of Florida Student Body President Michael Murphy has enlisted the aid of legal eagle Daniel Nordby, a Shutts & Bowen partner who served as general counsel to former Gov. Rick Scott, in his impeachment fight.

Murphy’s facing impeachment over his decision to bring Donald Trump Jr. and his gal pal Kimberly Guilfoyle to campus last month. The couple were paid $50,000, out of student fees, for the talk.

Student Body Senator Zachariah Chou expounded on the decision to impeach Murphy in a New York Times op-ed yesterday. You can read all about that – and watch Chou’s Instagram video – here.

Nordby, who’s also the chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, blamed the impeachment proceedings against his client on “students on college campuses across America who are intolerant of conservative views.”

Here’s Nordby’s full statement on the matter:

“Michael Murphy did not violate federal election law, state law, or any university policies. Rather, this situation is reflective of students on college campuses across America who are intolerant of conservative views. As stated by the University of Florida Spokesman and by the contract for the speaking engagement, the Donald Trump Jr. event was not a campaign event. The purpose of the event was to discuss and promote Donald Trump Jr.’s new number one New York Times best-selling book, and no campaign activity occurred at the event. Michael has also invited Senator Bernie Sanders to speak at UF, but he declined. Michael fights on campus to ensure all students’ viewpoints are reflected in campus programming, and will continue to fight for those students until the end of his term as Student Body President.”

UF student leader defends impeachment inquiry prompted by Trump Jr. speech

University of Florida student leaders are taking a lot of incoming over a move to impeach student body President Michael Murphy over his decision to bring Donald Trump Jr. to campus last month.

But , a senator in the Gator student government, penned an op-ed in The New York Times to defend the inquiry, which comes amid congressional impeachment  proceedings into President Donald Trump.

Chou, who admits in the piece that he ran against Murphy earlier this year and lost, wrote that the student president has become a “conservative martyr.”

“For many of his supporters, this is simply another story of campus leftists gone berserk and threatening free speech. In fact, it’s a much more complicated story, one that throws into question the use of public funds for partisan ends,” Chou wrote.

Murphy came under fire after emails disclosed by the university’s student newspaper showed the campaign of the president reached out to Murphy to bring the younger Trump and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, a Trump campaign adviser, to the school.

Student activity fees were used to pay $50,000 for the appearance. The impeachment resolution said Murphy “not only endangered students marginalized by the speaker’s white nationalist supporters, but also abused his power to advance a particular political party at the expense of the student he should represent.”

Murphy’s enlisted the aid of Tallahassee’s Daniel Nordby, a Shutts & Bowen partner who served as general counsel to former Gov. Rick Scott and is now the chairman of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Earlier this month, Florida GOP leaders issued a blast email to supporters in support of Murphy.

“If it was Chelsea Clinton, they’d be praising him. Enough is enough!” the party, which called Murphy’s impeachment “completely outrageous,” said.

But Chou provided some insight into the student government’s rationale:

Michael Murphy has posted photos of himself on social media at President Trump’s inauguration and with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the White House. He is the son of Dan Murphy, who works for the lobbying firm BGR Group. Dan Murphy maxed out donations to President Trump’s 2020 campaign, and is a known associate of Donald Trump Jr. The $50,000 that paid for the speaking fee came from mandatory student fees.

Chou noted that Scott, now a U.S. senator, called Murphy’s pending impeachment “shameful,” and also pointed out the RPOF website where supporters can add their name to support Murphy. On Nov. 14, Trump Jr. “tweeted colorful language about the Murphy impeachment inquiry and added, ‘Enough of this nonsense,’ ” Chou wrote.

The UF student newspaper, The Alligator, first reported on the emails linking the Trump campaign to the Trump Jr. speech.

“Many people saw these emails as the smoking gun, as proof that Mr. Murphy had colluded with the Trump campaign to funnel student fees toward a partisan cause.

The emails were the final straw for me and my colleagues in the Student Government Senate,” Chou wrote.

The story gathered steam, “bolstered” by the national impeachment proceedings, the student body senator added.

But, Chou argued, the impeachment isn’t based on partisan politics.

“This is about right and wrong,” he wrote.

Donald Trump Jr. made other book-tour stops where he wasn’t paid $50,000, Chou said.

Paying $50,000 for a speech that could have literally been a free speech is ethically questionable, especially seeing how Ms. Wren, a financial consultant for the Trump re-election campaign, was involved in setting up the speaking event — and that Michael Murphy’s lobbyist father has already maxed out his contributions to the campaign.

At the end of the day, had Donald Trump Jr. come to the University of Florida in the same way that he visited other universities, we would not had initiated impeachment proceedings against our student body president. It is the money questionably spent, conflicts of interest and shady Trump campaign collusion that are the sole ingredients in this recipe for impeachment.

Just as they are doing with the hearings in Washington, Republicans will try to pass this off as another day of partisan politics, but it’s not. This is about right and wrong, and just like our counterparts in Congress, we are taking a stand for ethical behavior in politics. We demand accountability.”

Here’s another excerpt from the op-ed:

“Conservative commentators have glanced in our direction and bemoaned the death of free speech on college campuses. The Florida Federation of College Republicans lamented that our student government has used “funds for years to promote liberal speakers.”

Reality doesn’t quite match up with the assertions of those who claim to be persecuted; as I’ve written previously, the vast majority of the political speakers that our student government has brought in and paid for in the last three years are conservative. On the conservative side, the former Ohio governor John Kasich came to campus in January; the former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and political commentator Ben Shapiro spoke in 2017. On the liberal side, we held events with Kal Penn, associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, and the comedian Chelsea Handler in 2017.

For the record, we do not try to impeach our student body president after every conservative speaking event on campus. Since the University of Florida opened its doors in Gainesville in 1906, there has been only one other impeachment inquiry into a student body president; in 2009, Kevin Reilly was investigated over various concerns, including violations of the Florida Sunshine Law and conspiring to keep minority-party senators out of committee seats. He was ultimately not impeached and, interestingly enough, eventually went on to work in Governor Scott’s administration.

The Florida Republican Party seems to think that the impeachment inquiry is solely about inviting a member of the Trump family to campus, but that is not the case. My fellow senators and I have no qualms with free speech. This is an issue of conflicts of interest and fiscal responsibility, revolving around how $50,000 in mandatory student fees ended up going down the drain, in the direction of the swamp.”

 

Patsy Palmer remembers her late husband, Sandy D’Alemberte. Plus, she wants your stories.

Sandy-DAlemberte-3x2An outpouring of praise for the Southern gentleman and legal giant described as “the definition of a statesman” continues to flood social media, the web and email inboxes as Floridians mourned Monday’s sudden death of Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte.

D’Alemberte, a former president of the American Bar Association and onetime president of Florida State University who also served as dean of the school’s College of Law, was extolled as a brilliant legal scholar who made a lasting imprint on education, civil rights, criminal justice and the courts.

With a shock of white hair, a trademark bow tie and a soft, Southern drawl, was a legal icon who influenced decades of Florida governance and was called “a force of nature” by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, a conservative Republican who is was on the other end of the ideological spectrum from D’Alemberte.

D’Alemberte and his wife, Patsy Palmer, had celebrated their 30th anniversary on May 13, Palmer said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

She said her husband, who was nearly 20 years her senior, “lived fully up until the very, very end.”

Palmer stressed that her husband remained “the Sandy D’Alemberte that you met years ago” until his unexpected death at a Lake City hospital Monday afternoon.

“We will always remember that radiant Sandy D’Alemberte that we all saw and knew for so many years. He will never stop being that person. So as awful as it is that he is gone and we do not have more of him, we do not have to watch him being diminished and miserable,” she said.

For years, Palmer, also a lawyer, has been a constant presence at her husband’s side, whether at Bach Parley concerts in a downtown church or working the halls of the Capitol.

Palmer recalled that she and her husband met just a few days before her 39th birthday, and he was nearly 56 when they tied the knot.

“We had communities and friendships and values in common, and on top of that we were very much in love. He opened so many worlds for me,” she said.

“Sandy” was “a leap and the net will appear kind of guy,” a contrast to her more cautious approach to life, Palmer said.

“I was really the partner who said I’m not sure there was a net,” she added.

“We shared so much, in terms of what we cared about and what we believed in. He opened many worlds to me, and I just feel that if it was a partnership I was a particularly lucky part of that partnership,” Palmer said.

Palmer didn’t hesitate when asked what could be done to honor the Florida icon and show their support for his widow.

She wants stories.

“What I really hope, as people remember him over time — and that includes reporters — if people have stories about him, that they could memorialize those somehow,” Palmer said.

Folks with anecdotes can write them on index cards, type them up or make voice recordings, Palmer suggested.

“I want him to continue, vivid. I want to keep knowing more about him. I would love it if people just got stuff to me, and I will hold onto it and treasure it,” she said.

Anyone with an anecdote or remembrance they would like to share with Patsy Palmer is encouraged to send an email to darakam@gmail.com, and we will make sure she receives all messages and recordings.

Broward schools host day of “service and love” on first anniversary of Parkland shooting

AlyssaAlhadeff

Next month’s Valentine’s Day marks the tragic, one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three faculty members were slain and 17 others were injured.

The Parkland massacre — one of the nation’s worst mass shootings — sparked a months-long investigation, stricter school-safety requirements and changes to the state’s gun laws.

The horrific event also resulted in the ouster of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, whose removal was  one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first actions after taking office last week.

Broward schools are planning a series of ways to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, including “A Day of Service and Love” at MSD High School.

“It will be a day to give back to the community in honor of MSD’s 17 fallen eagles, the students and staff who were lost one year ago,” the Broward County school board said in a press release highlighting some of the Feb. 14 events.

The Parkland high school will be open from 7:40 a.m. until noon, “during which time students can participate in service projects including serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children,” according to the release.

At 10:17 a.m., all of the county’s schools — in addition to those in and outside of Broward  — will be asked to join the district in observing a moment of silence “to honor those whose lives were lost and recognize the injured.”

Other highlights of the one-year commemoration include:

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

  • Students will begin projects at 7:40 a.m. and will dismiss at 11:40 a.m. The school will close at noon.
  • District staff and community partners will provide service-learning activities alongside MSD staff.
  • Mental health staff will be available and the Wellness Center, located on the school’s campus, will be open.
  • Therapy dogs will be available.
  • BCPS Technical Colleges will provide Services with Love to staff and students, including but not limited to manicures, massages, and healthy cooking demonstrations.

At schools throughout the District:

  • Schools will remain open on February 14, 2019.

  • Schools are encouraged to participate in “A Day of Service and Love” and engage students in school-based activities that serve others within their schools or local community. Specific activities will vary per school.

  • The District is providing guidance to school leaders regarding the one-year Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commemoration.

  • The entire District will observe a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m.

League of Women Voters to Board of Education: Just say no!

rubber-stamp-file-photo-public-domainThe man who castigated troubled schools as “failure factories” is poised to become the state’s next education commissioner, as Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis made clear he wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to take over the post.

While the Board of Education technically has the final say-so on the matter, there’s little doubt the panel will grant DeSantis’ wish.

Not so fast, the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a missive issued Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson and the rest of the board, the League urged the panel to conduct a national search to find the replacement for Linda Stewart, a veteran educator whose resignation will go into effect next month.

The state Constitution makes it clear “that it is the Board of Education – not the Governor – that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education,” the letter reads.

“At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply ‘rubber stamp’ a politically motivated choice,” LWV Florida president Patricia Brigham wrote in the letter.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Chairwoman and State Board Members,
With the impending departure of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the League of Women Voters of Florida reminds you that as members of the State Board of Education you not only have the opportunity, but a constitutional responsibility, to conduct a national search to find the person who is best suited to oversee Florida’s system of public education.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution of Florida was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Florida in 1998. That provision created the Board of Education, consisting of seven members serving staggered terms to oversee Florida’s system of free public schools.
By enacting that provision, the people of Florida made it clear in the Constitution that it is the Board of Education — not the Governor — that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education. Further, the Board of Education members’ terms of office were purposely staggered to ensure that as governors change, the Florida education system would be insulated from the disruption caused by political patronage appointments of a Commissioner of Education.
At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.
Under our state’s current constitution, the Governor retains input to the process by filling vacancies which occur as Board Members terms expire, however, the Board must carry out its constitutional duty and make appointments based upon merit, not political patronage. While members of the Board may ultimately concur with the recommendation of the incoming Governor regarding who to appoint, the Board of Education should decline to opt for an expedient political patronage selection.
In sum, the Board should be guided by the constitutional statement that imposes upon the State a “paramount duty” to make “adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Included in such a paramount duty is the selection of the best person possible to lead the effort. Finding such a person mandates that the Board conduct a national search and not just grant perfunctory approval to a political patronage appointment.
Florida’s children deserve nothing less.
Patricia Brigham
President

Dueling Dems go after Trump, cigar-toting Republicans in latest ads

Democrats Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene launched new TV ads this week, as time runs out before voters start casting ballots in the Aug. 28 primary.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who lives next door to President Donald Trump, takes aim at his neighbor in one of two ads totaling a $2.7 million weeklong buy, according to Greene’s camp.

Or rather, Trump is the one taking aim in the ads — with his golf club.

The spot features the president swinging away on the golf course, and complains that “Florida taxpayers are paying for it — literally ” every time Trump visits the Sunshine State. The presidential drop-ins cost millions in overtime and road closures, according to the ad, in which Greene pledges “to put a stop to that, day one” if elected governor.

A second Greene ad’s more upbeat, and stars the candidate, his wife and his three young sons — Malcolm, Brandon and Cameron — he says are the reason he’s in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Greene is a late entry into the crowded Democratic field, but he’s pledged to spend what it takes to move into the govenror’s mansion.

In her latest ad, Graham — who ousted former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014 and served a term in Congress before deciding to seek re-election after her North Florida district was redrawn — continued what appears to be a general-election strategy by going after Republicans.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says while black-and-white images of GOP legislators posing with cigars on the floor of the state House flash on the screen.

Graham and Greene are facing off in the primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.