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Middleburg High School Students Challenge Florida Legislature to Change Outdated Statute

Courtesy of Martha Johnson and Casey Starling
of Middleburg High School

photo
Middleburg High School students
at Florida's Capitol


At the beginning of the 2003-04 school year, Ms. Marty Mayer, the public speaking teacher at Middleburg High School, asked her students to create a project that involved speaking, writing, presentation, research and planning skills. Twelve members of her class chose to try to change Florida Statute 1006.07 (2) that allowed schools to punish students for having electronic communication devices, such as cell phones, in their purses or backpacks.

With a grant from the Clay County Education Foundation, the students began their project by creating and sending questionnaires to one public high school in every Florida county. They also polled 15 superintendents about their district policies. Their research indicated the statute was 20 years out of date and needed a change. These students felt possession of an "electronic communication device" should no longer be classified as a felony.

After reviewing the results, the students contacted their state legislators, Sen. Evelyn Lynn and Rep. Carl Domino, who enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the bill they created. The legislators invited the students to testify in defense of the bill before the House Education Committee. The House voted unanimously to support House Bill 853. The students then met with Speaker Johnnie Byrd who also supported the change. Sen. Lynn introduced the students and their bill to the Senate. The senators applauded the students' effort on Senate Bill 184, and they too passed the bill 39-1.

This experience has proven to the students that teenagers can work within the system to facilitate change. These students have not just sat in their desks and taken notes, they have lived the Sunshine State Standards by applying the skills learned and making a difference for all students in the State of Florida.

Senate Bill 184 was passed in the 2004 legislative session and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush in May 2004. The new law becomes effective July 1, 2004.

For more information on Middleburg High in Middleburg, Florida, visit www.clay.k12.fl.us/mbh.