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The South Florida Roundup

Books in PBC schools, bike safety in Miami-Dade, the start of hurricane season and more

A biker rides near the spot where two cyclists were killed a day earlier, on May 15, 2021, at the foot of William Powell Bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway. The pair were struck by a car on a roadway that has been dangerous, sometimes deadly, for cyclists.
Miami Herald
A biker rides near the spot where two cyclists were killed a day earlier, on May 15, 2021, at the foot of William Powell Bridge on the Rickenbacker Causeway. The pair were struck by a car on a roadway that has been dangerous, sometimes deadly, for cyclists.

Teachers in Palm Beach County have to review books in their classrooms to comply with new state law. Miami-Dade County aims to improve biker and pedestrian safety. Plus, this year's hurricane season is predicted to be another busy one, and a new media group aims to change Spanish language radio in Miami.

On the last day of classes this year, the School District of Palm Beach County issued a message to teachers for the next school year.

They were told that all textbooks and instructional materials available to students have to be reviewed for compliance with new state laws, including the Individual Freedom Bill and the Parental Rights in Education Bill.

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This review process is for classroom libraries specifically. The process for textbooks, library books and materials is different.

A questionnaire was provided to Palm Beach County teachers who may be unsure if books in their classroom aren’t following the new laws. Some of the questions include:

  • Does the book promote, compel or encourage a student to believe one or more of the following: Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex?
  • Is the book from the 1619 Project and/or does it quote or reference the 1619 Project?
  • If the book explicitly instructs on sexual orientation or gender identity:

    • Is the book accessible to students in grades K-3?
    •  If the book is for students beyond grade 3, is the content age appropriate or developmentally appropriate?

Teachers answering “yes” or “unsure” to any of these questions would have to turn the book in question over to a media specialist for further review. Books that are flagged under this questionnaire are to be removed from the classroom as the review plays out.

WLRN’s Education Reporter Kate Payne said that teachers have a lot of questions about this process, especially since she isn’t sure what other guidance they’re receiving on the topic.

“So much of it seems to come down to their own interpretation of whether a book compels students to believe that people are racist.”
Kate Payne, WLRN Education Reporter

So far, Payne and other teachers are not clear on what the further review process will look like. The district has not received legal guidelines from the state department of education about how to comply with these new state laws, she said.

“And at least for House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Law, it’s actually written into the language of the law that DOE doesn’t have to provide guidance until 2023,” Payne said.

Miami-Dade increases focus on pedestrian and cyclist safety

The death of two cyclists on May 15 has brought new efforts to protect bikers from traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

16 cyclists and 89 pedestrians in South Florida have died in crashes with vehicles this year, according to state data.

The deadly bike crash last month has led to more police patrols, slower speed limits and temporary barriers. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said these were urgent measures that had to be put in place as they plan long-term measures.

Some of these future measures include closing off the U-turn lane on the Rickenbacker Causeway with jersey barriers, getting escorts for large groups of bike riders, closing down certain lanes to make the road narrower for cars and increasing the lanes for bikes.

“We’ve identified the areas of greatest conflict between cars and bicyclists and pedestrians, and we’re making sure that in the short-term we protect lives and in the mid-term we put up whatever we can to make sure people can cross safely,” Levine Cava said.

The causeway and Key Biscayne have been added to Vision Zero, the county’s plan to eliminate fatalities on the roadways. The plan identified 50 dangerous intersections in Miami-Dade and aims to improve those areas. These improvements could include changing the timing of lights or adding more signals, signs and barriers.

Michael Davey, mayor of Key Biscayne said he and Levine Cava share many of the same concerns.

“We want to do the most we can to protect everyone, and I appreciate the county’s efforts in terms of enforcement,” he said.

Davey agrees with reducing the speed limit on the causeway to 35 mph from 45 mph as a temporary solution — but would like the speed limit to return to 45 once more permanent barriers are in place.

In the long-term, he hopes to see better separation between bikers and cars on the entire causeway, especially since it’s an important road for residents of Key Biscayne and visitors coming for recreational activities.

“What I would like to see is something more permanent than the armadillos or the plastic dividers you have on the expressway," he said.

Another busy hurricane season is on the way

The predictions last month pointed for this storm season to be another busy one in the subtropics. The season is barely a week old and South Florida already found itself under a tropical storm warning.

The first tropical weather of the hurricane season did not come from the Atlantic though. It slid across Mexico from the Pacific into the Gulf of Mexico and brought rains, floods and some strong wind gusts over the weekend.

The tropical system that hit Miami was named Alex after turning into a tropical storm in the Atlantic.

WLRN’s Environmental Reporter Jenny Staletovich said that predictions state that we will see between 14 and 21 named storms this season, with 14 being an average number. She said this will be the 7th busy hurricane season in a row.

Many factors are contributing to this hurricane season. Staletovich said we have a La Niña that will go well into the season, which means that the strong upper winds that help shear off hurricanes won’t be here.

She added that there is also going to be a busy monsoon season off the coast of Africa, as well as hotter-than-usual ocean surface temperatures that help fuel storms.

“The loop current carries warm deeper further into the gulf … That means when a hurricane crosses over it, it’s got a deeper reservoir of fuel essentially,” Staletovich said.

Potential change in the landscape of Spanish language radio in Miami

A big deal in radio was made that may re-shape Spanish language radio and politics in Miami. A newly formed and Latino-led media group, The Latino Media Network, has agreed with Univision to buy 18 of its Spanish language radio stations. This includes one of the biggest in Miami: Radio Mambí.

WLRN’s Americas Editor Tim Padgett said the group is a bipartisan group with Republicans and Democrats with the Democrats leading them. They purchased these 18 stations for $60 million dollars.

“A good bit of the financing comes from Lakestar Finance, which is affiliated with George Soros, the businessman philanthropist who has obviously become sort of a lighting rod in U.S. politics,” he said.

Padgett believes this came about from democrats in Miami finally deciding to own the Spanish language radio stations they’ve complained about. These complaints stem from the accusations of right-wing disinformation that comes from these stations.

You can read more of Padgett’s reporting on the situation here.

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Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Host.