I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Big Day in Tallahassee Today, Part II

Stirring testimony from many concerned parents and students led to an overwhelming victory for HB1 as it passed by a wide margin out of committee today.  I was honored to speak in favor of this fantastic legislation.

In addition to meeting and speaking with legislators on many areas of continuing concern for the county, I also had the opportunity to speak before the House Education Committee this morning...

Several INCREDIBLY important initiatives are moving forward today in the wake of that committee's meeting.

Make no mistake about it, these initiatives improve schools, make better, more productive citizens, and eventually these education initiatives have a tremendous impact on counties and communities.

It is for this reason that I spoke today, as a parent and an individual, on the breakthrough legislation introduced this session by Representative Byron Donalds of Naples.

House Bill 1, the Hope Scholarship, was up in committee today.  This bill provides a dedicated funding source for vouchers to allow victims of bullying to move out of schools where the bullying continues unabated.  Many passionate speakers addressed the committee on this law..  Children, parents, victims of bullying that was never addressed in traditional public schools now want the ability to transfer out of dysfunctional schools where bullying is permitted to continue.  Young victims and parents cried as they gave their testimony.  It was moving.

The educrats, the status quo guardians also spoke. Unions, PTA's, school administators They hate this proposal, and bemoaned the loss of revenue for their "public" schools.

I spoke up too.  I spoke passionately and URGED the committee to pass this legislation to make it law.  Laws are on the books and have been for years, and they are not followed at the local level--this was the thrust of my testimony as a parent and former school board member.  I support public schools, but I simply do not believe they will follow laws like the Jeffrey Johnston stand up for all students act.  That law is on the books ten years now and it is not being followed.  The only thing that will get the "Establishment's" attention is giving parents the choice to leave dysfunctional dangerous public schools.

We have had time to fix this, but bureaucrats and other feckless administrators put political correctness and "lower discipline" referral numbers ahead of following the bullying laws with fidelity.  Essentially, they have coddled the bullies, and kicked the victims, metaphorically, to the curb with their collective inaction which became the genesis for H.B. 1.  HB 1 passed overwhelmingly out of committee today--and there is a strong likelihood that this law passes out of the full House today.  I certainly hope it does.

Victim students deserve this, as do those in positions of power and trust who allowed this epidemic to grow unchecked.  Congratulations to those educrats--they brought this on themselves, congratulations!


Jacqueline Rogers said...

HB1 does sound like a good law and needed. Bullying is a real problem with serious consequences. You helped a student get out of a bullying situation when you served on the school board when the administration of the school and district refused to act. I was very thankful that you were willing to step in and help that student move to another school.
If administrators knew that students could actually leave the entire system, and attend elsewhere, maybe they would start acting at least not to lose student funding.

Jeff Bergosh said...

The reason this law is so desperately needed is because from what I saw in my 10 years on the school board is that repetitive, directed bullying happens quite frequently; Here is the way the shell game works: Teacher A would write a referral for student "X" and it would say "Student X is once again bullying student "y" again-and this has been happening frequently in my class-- pushing him, making fun of him, throwing items at him, and threatening him. Student "Y" came to me and asked for help" Then, even though the referral for student "X" from the teacher specifically called this misbehavior what it was--bullying--the office administration would frequently change the SESIR (state mandated reporting system for school incidents) code on the referral from "Bullying" to "abusive conduct" "harassment" or "affray"...Why would a school administration do that, you ask? Well, in 2008 the Florida Legislature enacted the Jeffrey Johnston stand up for all students act--and it mandates certain immediate actions a school district must take if cases of bullying are reported. A mandatory notification of parents of the bully and the victim, a 10-day investigation, counseling for victim and bully, and other onerous sanctions. It is burdensome on the schools, so in my experience I have seen such bullying reports be minimized, marginalized, and the codes changed. It was so bad that at one point I threatened to self-report to Tallahassee if I saw any more instances of blatant failure to follow the act. I got their attention briefly in 2014--but nothing has really changed. The Jeffrey Johnston act has sanctions, the District's safe schools allocation (Roughly$1.2 Million Yearly in Escambia County) can be pulled if the act is not followed--but I have been unable to document any public school district in Florida ever having this money pulled. In short, the well-intended Jeffrey Johnston Act has strong language, and good protections.....but if it is not followed (which in my experience is what I have witnessed--it NOT being followed) it is not worth the paper it is written on. That is why I am standing so strongly behind the Hope Scholarship legislation... It takes the power out of the Bureaucrats' hands and gives it back to parents and students who know damn good and well when they are being subjected to bullying. And these victims also know in many cases due to the feckless, weak nature of many school-based administrators that are pressured to keep their discipline referral numbers "low"--real instances of bullying will often be covered up. This law changes the paradigm and it is a good change. Give parents power and you will get the attention of the bureaucrats. Anyone interested in this topic should read about the tragic situation with Jeffrey Johnston. He was bullied relentlessly, he and his parents desperately, repeatedly sought help from their teachers and administrators at the school, but nothing was done. the bullying continued relentlessly, unabated, and only stopped when Johnston took his own life by hanging himself....

Anonymous said...

Touching post-- thank you for going to bat for all in Tallahassee and standing up to the bullies plus cutting through the red tape whenever possible. Your efforts are not going unnoticed.