Florida Senate - 2021 SB 7070 By the Committee on Education 581-03571-21 20217070__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to the impact of COVID-19 on 3 educational institutions; amending s. 464.019, F.S.; 4 requiring the Board of Nursing to extend an approved 5 program’s probationary status under certain 6 circumstances; creating s. 768.39, F.S.; providing 7 legislative findings; defining the term “educational 8 institution”; prohibiting an educational institution 9 that has taken certain reasonably necessary actions to 10 diminish the impact or spread of COVID-19 from being 11 civilly liable for such actions; specifying that the 12 provision of certain services by educational 13 institutions was impossible during certain periods of 14 time; providing that certain reasonably necessary 15 actions are deemed justified; providing that general 16 publications of educational institutions are not 17 evidence of an implied contract to provide specified 18 services during the COVID-19 public health emergency; 19 providing exceptions; providing severability; 20 providing for retroactive applicability; authorizing 21 school grades calculated during a certain school year 22 to be used for eligibility for the Florida School 23 Recognition Program; authorizing a school in 24 turnaround status to exit turnaround status if the 25 school receives a grade of “C” or better; exempting 26 certain schools or approved providers from being 27 subject to sanctions or penalties as a result of 28 school grade or school improvement ratings earned 29 during a certain school year; prohibiting a high 30 performing charter school system or school district 31 from losing such designation based on school grades 32 earned during a certain school year; authorizing a 33 parent or guardian to request that his or her K-5 34 student be retained in a grade level for academic 35 reasons for a specified school year; requiring that 36 such a request be submitted in a specified manner; 37 requiring school principals to consider such requests 38 if they are timely received; authorizing school 39 principals to consider requests that are not timely 40 received; requiring a school principal who considers a 41 request for retention to inform the student’s teachers 42 of the request and collaboratively discuss with the 43 parent or guardian any basis for agreement or 44 disagreement with the request; requiring such 45 discussion to disclose that retention may impact the 46 student’s eligibility to participate in high school 47 interscholastic or intrascholastic sports; authorizing 48 the principal, teachers, and parent or guardian to 49 collaborate to develop a customized 1-year education 50 plan for the student in lieu of retaining the student; 51 requiring a parent’s or guardian’s decision regarding 52 retention to control; requiring the individual 53 education plan (IEP) team for a retained student to 54 review and revise the student’s IEP, as appropriate; 55 requiring school districts to report certain data to 56 the Department of Education by a specified date; 57 authorizing certain students to graduate; prohibiting 58 certain performance results from being used for 59 calculating student performance measurement and for 60 evaluating personnel; waiving a provision requiring 61 summer prekindergarten programs to consist of at least 62 300 hours; waiving a requirement that no more than 22 63 percent of certain funds provided to an early learning 64 coalition be used for certain purposes; providing an 65 effective date. 66 67 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 68 69 Section 1. Paragraph (a) of subsection (5) of section 70 464.019, Florida Statutes, is amended to read: 71 464.019 Approval of nursing education programs.— 72 (5) ACCOUNTABILITY.— 73 (a)1. An approved program must achieve a graduate passage 74 rate for first-time test takers which is not more than 10 75 percentage points lower than the average passage rate during the 76 same calendar year for graduates of comparable degree programs 77 who are United States educated, first-time test takers on the 78 National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensing 79 Examination, as calculated by the contract testing service of 80 the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. For purposes of 81 this subparagraph, an approved program is comparable to all 82 degree programs of the same program type from among the 83 following program types: 84 a. Professional nursing education programs that terminate 85 in a bachelor’s degree. 86 b. Professional nursing education programs that terminate 87 in an associate degree. 88 c. Professional nursing education programs that terminate 89 in a diploma. 90 d. Practical nursing education programs. 91 2. If an approved program’s graduate passage rates do not 92 equal or exceed the required passage rates for 2 consecutive 93 calendar years, the board shall place the program on 94 probationary status pursuant to chapter 120 and the program 95 director shall appear before the board to present a plan for 96 remediation, which shall include specific benchmarks to identify 97 progress toward a graduate passage rate goal. The program must 98 remain on probationary status until it achieves a graduate 99 passage rate that equals or exceeds the required passage rate 100 for any 1 calendar year. The board shall deny a program 101 application for a new prelicensure nursing education program 102 submitted by an educational institution if the institution has 103 an existing program that is already on probationary status. 104 3. Upon the program’s achievement of a graduate passage 105 rate that equals or exceeds the required passage rate, the 106 board, at its next regularly scheduled meeting following release 107 of the program’s graduate passage rate by the National Council 108 of State Boards of Nursing, shall remove the program’s 109 probationary status. If the program, during the 2 calendar years 110 following its placement on probationary status, does not achieve 111 the required passage rate for any 1 calendar year, the board may 112 extend the program’s probationary status for 1 additional year, 113 provided the program has demonstrated adequate progress toward 114 the graduate passage rate goal by meeting a majority of the 115 benchmarks established in the remediation plan. If the program 116 is not granted the 1-year extension or fails to achieve the 117 required passage rate by the end of such extension, the board 118 shall terminate the program pursuant to chapter 120. If a 119 program on probationary status fails to achieve the required 120 passage rate for the 2020 calendar year, including a program 121 subject to termination during the 2021 calendar year, the board 122 shall extend the program’s probationary status for 1 additional 123 year. The board shall grant such extension at a regularly 124 scheduled meeting during the 2021 calendar year. 125 Section 2. Section 768.39, Florida Statutes, is created to 126 read: 127 768.39 Immunity for educational institutions for actions 128 related to the COVID-19 pandemic.— 129 (1) The Legislature finds that during the COVID-19 130 pandemic, educational institutions had little choice but to 131 close or restrict access to their campuses in an effort to 132 protect the health of their students, educators, staff, and 133 communities. Despite these efforts, more than 120,000 cases of 134 COVID-19 have been linked to colleges and universities 135 nationwide, and the deaths of more than 100 college students 136 have been attributed to the disease. The Legislature further 137 finds that lawsuits against educational institutions based on 138 their efforts to provide educational services while keeping 139 students, faculty, staff, and communities safe during the COVID 140 19 public health emergency are without legal precedent. One 141 court has even acknowledged that the “legal system is now 142 feeling COVID-19’s havoc with the current wave of class action 143 lawsuits that seek tuition reimbursement related to forced 144 online tutelage.” Under these circumstances, the Legislature 145 finds that there is an overpowering public necessity for, and no 146 reasonable alternative to, providing educational institutions 147 with liability protections against lawsuits seeking tuition or 148 fee reimbursements or related damages resulting from the 149 institutions changing the delivery of educational services, 150 limiting access to facilities, or closing campuses during the 151 COVID-19 public health emergency. 152 (2) For the purposes of this section, the term “educational 153 institution” has the same meaning as in s. 768.38(2). 154 (3)(a) An educational institution that has taken reasonably 155 necessary actions in compliance with federal, state, or local 156 guidance to diminish the impact or the spread of COVID-19 may 157 not be held liable for, and shall be immune from, any civil 158 damages, equitable relief, or other remedies relating to such 159 actions. Reasonably necessary actions taken while a state of 160 emergency was declared for this state for the COVID-19 pandemic 161 include, but are not limited to, any of the following: 162 1. Shifting in-person instruction to online or remote 163 instruction for any period of time. 164 2. Closing or modifying the provision of residential 165 housing, dining, or other facilities on the campus of the 166 educational institution. 167 3. Pausing or modifying ancillary student activities and 168 services available through the educational institution. 169 (b) The provision of in-person or on-campus education and 170 related services is deemed to have been impossible for 171 educational institutions during any period of time in which such 172 institutions took reasonably necessary actions described in 173 paragraph (a) to protect students, staff, and educators in 174 response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. 175 (c) As a result of the various governmental orders and the 176 need for educational institutions to protect their communities, 177 the reasonably necessary actions described in paragraph (a) are 178 deemed justified. 179 (4) In any action against an educational institution for 180 the reimbursement of tuition or fees, general publications of 181 the institution are not evidence of an implied contract to 182 provide in-person or on-campus education and related services or 183 access to facilities during the COVID-19 public health 184 emergency. 185 (5)(a) This section does not apply to losses or damages 186 that resulted solely from a breach of an express contractual 187 provision allocating liability in the event of a pandemic event. 188 (b) This section does not apply to losses or damages caused 189 by an act or omission of a college or university which was in 190 bad faith or malicious. 191 (6) If any aspect of the immunity under subsection (3) is 192 limited by a court or by operation of law from applying to 193 certain types of claims or causes of action, the immunity under 194 this section must still be provided to the fullest extent 195 authorized by law to any other types of claims or causes of 196 action. 197 (7) This section shall apply retroactively to causes of 198 actions accruing on or after March 1, 2020, the date of the 199 declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency by the State 200 Surgeon General, and shall apply prospectively to causes of 201 action that accrue before the end of the academic term during 202 which the emergency declaration expires or is terminated. 203 Section 3. In recognition of the public health emergency 204 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and notwithstanding any other 205 provision in law: 206 (1) School grades calculated for the 2020-2021 school year 207 may be used for eligibility for the Florida School Recognition 208 Program established under s. 1008.36, Florida Statutes, as 209 provided in the General Appropriations Act. 210 (2) A school currently in turnaround status pursuant to s. 211 1008.33, Florida Statutes, may exit turnaround status if the 212 school receives a grade of “C” or better. 213 (3) A school or approved provider under s. 1002.45, Florida 214 Statutes, which receives the same or a lower school grade or 215 school improvement rating for the 2020-2021 school year compared 216 to the 2018-2019 school year is not subject to sanctions or 217 penalties that would otherwise occur as a result of the 2020 218 2021 school grade or school improvement rating. A charter school 219 system or a school district designated as high-performing may 220 not lose the designation based on the 2020-2021 school grade of 221 any of the schools within the charter school system or school 222 district, as applicable. 223 (4) Notwithstanding s. 1008.25, Florida Statutes, a parent 224 or guardian may request that his or her K-5 public school 225 student be retained for the 2021-2022 school year in the grade 226 level to which the student was assigned at the beginning of the 227 2020-2021 school year, provided that such request is made for 228 academic reasons. 229 (a) A parent or guardian who wishes for his or her student 230 to be retained as provided by this act must submit, in writing, 231 to the school principal a retention request that specifies the 232 academic reasons for the retention. Only requests received by 233 the principal on or before June 30, 2021, must be considered. A 234 principal may consider a request received after that date at his 235 or her discretion. 236 (b)1. A principal who considers a retention request 237 submitted pursuant to this subsection shall inform the student’s 238 teachers of the retention request and collaboratively discuss 239 with the parent or guardian any basis for agreement or 240 disagreement with the request. As part of the discussion with 241 the parent or guardian, the principal shall disclose that 242 retention may impact the student’s eligibility to participate in 243 high school interscholastic or intrascholastic sports due to the 244 student’s age. 245 2. In lieu of retention, the principal, teachers, and 246 parent or guardian may collaborate to develop a customized 1 247 year education plan for the student with the intent of helping 248 the student return to grade level readiness by the end of the 249 next academic year. Such plan may include, but need not be 250 limited to, supplemental educational support, services, and 251 interventions; summer education; promotion in some, but not all, 252 courses; and midyear promotion. 253 3. The parent’s or guardian’s decision to promote or retain 254 his or her student after discussing the retention request with 255 the principal shall control. 256 (c) If a student retained under this subsection has an 257 individual education plan (IEP) in effect, the student’s IEP 258 team shall convene to review and revise the student’s IEP, as 259 appropriate. 260 (d) By June 30, 2022, school districts shall report to the 261 Department of Education the number of students retained pursuant 262 to this act for all or part of the 2021-2022 school year. 263 (5) A student who meets all of the requirements for 264 graduation at the end of the 2020-2021 school year except for 265 passing either or both statewide, standardized assessments 266 required pursuant to s. 1003.4282(3)(a) and (b), Florida 267 Statutes, will be deemed to have met all of the requirements for 268 graduation. 269 (6) Student performance results from the 2020-2021 270 statewide, standardized assessments may not be used for 271 calculating student performance measurement and evaluating 272 personnel pursuant to s. 1012.34, Florida Statutes. 273 (7) The provision in s. 1002.61(2)(a), Florida Statutes, 274 that requires a summer prekindergarten program delivered by a 275 public school or private prekindergarten provider to consist of 276 at least 300 hours is waived. The 2021 summer prekindergarten 277 program must consist of at least 200 hours. The full-time 278 equivalent calculation for a student in a summer 2021 279 prekindergarten program delivered by a public school or private 280 prekindergarten provider under s. 1002.71(2)(b), Florida 281 Statutes, shall be prorated for the number of instructional 282 hours reported. 283 (8) The requirement in s. 1002.89(6), Florida Statutes, 284 that no more than 22 percent of the state, federal, and local 285 matching funds provided to an early learning coalition to 286 implement its approved school readiness program plan be used for 287 any combination of administrative costs, quality activities, and 288 nondirect services is waived for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 289 school years, provided that the funds are used for purposes of 290 emergency recovery and direct support to providers. 291 Section 4. This act is effective upon becoming a law.