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Lawsuits challenging HB 7; new polling for statewide elections; federal plan to save key deer

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Gov. Ron DeSantis announces plans to restrict the teaching of race-related concepts in schools and workplaces.

As students return to school across Florida, the new school year begins with concerns about a statewide teacher shortage and new laws limiting how certain subjects can be taught or even discussed.

This week, a group of students and educators filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s House Bill 7, which Gov. Ron DeSantis branded the “Stop WOKE Act." The law restricts how Florida educators and businesses can talk about issues related to race and gender.

Meanwhile, a new national report says there’s been an alarming spike in proposals across the country restricting the freedom to learn and teach. The report also highlights rapidly escalating threats to students’ First Amendment rights.

Jeremy Young, senior manager of free expression and education programs, PEN America told us more.

The Parental Rights in Education law and the Stop WOKE Act have caused some confusion among teachers and school districts as they try to work out what can and can’t be said to avoid lawsuits.

WUSF’s Kerry Sheridan spoke with Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, about how the state's largest teachers union is trying to help its members navigate the new situation.

Sheridan also spoke to Gail Foreman, a history and psychology teacher at Booker High School in Sarasota, about how she’s handling a new rule in Sarasota Public Schools.

New polling for statewide elections

New polling out this week shows Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried edging former Gov. Charlie Crist as they battle it out in the Democratic primary for governor.

For more on the governor’s race, and other races and issues percolating around the state, we spoke with Mike Binder. He leads the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida.

Thanks to increasingly partisan redistricting in Florida and a closed voting system, the August primary is most likely going to decide several races in the greater Tampa Bay area.

The general election in November features some candidates with little or no previous political experience. WUSF's Steve Newborn talked about this with Tara Newsom, a political science professor at St. Petersburg College.

When Fried announced a plan earlier this year aimed at putting the state on a path toward cleaner energy, she did it after a campaign from some 200 young Floridians — all of them under the age of 25.

These young voters had found something in the state statutes that Florida leaders, including Fried, had apparently overlooked. The law requires Fried’s department to set goals for enhancing renewable energy use in the state. In Florida, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees the state’s Office of Energy.

Florida is among the most vulnerable states to climate change and yet until now has lacked any real plan to address the main cause behind warming temperatures and wean the state from fossil fuels.

Amy Green of WMFE in Orlando told us more.

Federal plan to save key deer

In other environmental news, a new federal wildlife plan to help save the endangered key deer is drawing scrutiny from conservationists.

As WLRN’s environmental reporter Jenny Staletovich told us, this latest critique is an effort to come up with a more detailed recovery plan.

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Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.
Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.