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.
   67  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   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         768.39Immunity 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.