Alachua County residents will see nearly 150 state laws take effect Friday with changes to education, school safety and music.
Florida Circuit Judge John Cooper plans to halt the 15-week abortion ban Gov. Ron DeSantis approved April 14 after he ruled it an unconstitutional violation of privacy Thursday. Cooper’s ruling comes a week after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that established abortion rights.
The state law, which went into effect last Friday, will remain in effect until Cooper signs the written order officiating the temporary halt, restricts physicians from offering abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions made for fatal fetus abnormalities and mothers who would face serious injury or death if carried to term. The state law, however, made no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
While Cooper’s blockage would only be temporary until legislators amend the bill, Rachel Wolfrey, the president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action and a director at UF College Democrats and Florida Forward, hopes it serves as one step closer to ending the bill entirely.
The 21-year-old UF political science senior anticipates Republicans, including DeSantis, will combat the decision as quickly as possible.
Loud Music in Vehicles
Police officers will now ticket drivers who play music audible from a distance of 25 feet or more from the vehicle, as well as in areas near churches, schools or hospitals.
Deborah Rodriguez, a 20-year-old UF biochemistry junior, said the new law ensures safety; drivers blasting music disturbs other drivers’ ability to hear emergency vehicles.
“It's not that you can't listen to music,” she said. “It's to not listen to music at a volume that will impair your driving.”
Being in a college town, Rodriguez said it is common to hear loud music at 3 a.m., and she thinks this bill will make people think twice before blasting music.
"Stop WOKE Act"
Desantis’ “Stop WOKE Act” prevents critical race theory — teachings about systemic institutional discrimination against people based on race, color, sex or national origin — from existing within school curriculum and workplace training.
Alachua County school board members unanimously approved four of the 11 textbook submissions for the upcoming school year April 19.
Steven Noll, an instructional professor in UF’s history department, said he refuses to change the books he uses to teach or the way he teaches regardless of the bill.
“Don’t Say Gay Bill”
The “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” or the Parental Rights in Education law, authorizes parents to sue a school district if a school violates the policy, which restricts teachers from discussing gender identity and sexuality with students in kindergarten through third grade or “when not age-appropriate.”
The state Board of Education will implement post-evacuation emergency drills and family reunification plans after a school evacuation, extending school safety policies influenced by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
The bill would increase safety measures in Alachua County schools after a Fort Clarke middle school student brought a loaded gun to campus in May and more than 18 bomb threats targeted Alachua County Public Schools last fall.
It also authorizes school safety officers to make arrests on charter school property.
School safety officers must complete crisis intervention and training, police officers must be present and involved during relevant drills and school districts must certify at least 80% of school personnel received youth mental health awareness training annually.
Florida Standards Assessments, FSA testing, will be replaced with progress monitoring. Instead of one test at the end of the year, students will test three times throughout the year under the new program.
Even though the new testing system technically takes effect Friday, school districts will implement it during the upcoming 2022-23 school year.
DeSantis also approved amendments to the Bright Futures Scholarship one week ago, authorizing students to satisfy service requirements through paid work rather than volunteer service.
Contact Mickenzie Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MickenzieHannon.
Mickenzie is the local elections reporter and previously covered city and county commission for The Alligator’s Metro Desk. She's a fourth-year journalism major and is specializing in data journalism. When Mickenzie isn’t writing, she enjoys watching horror movies, reading, playing with her pets and attending concerts.