School Climate & Safety

After Shooting, Superintendent Calls for Review of Suspect’s Education, Disciplinary History

By Evie Blad — March 06, 2018 2 min read
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The superintendent of the Florida district recovering from a Feb. 14 school shooting called for an independent review of the suspect’s “educational record and the academic, social and emotional services” he received.

Police say Nikolas Cruz, a former student, killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In the time since the shooting, the community has questioned whether police, schools, and mental health professionals missed a chance to intervene before the 19-year-old attacked the school.

“Our hearts remain broken, as we find ourselves at the center of enormous loss and heartbreak,” Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said in a statement Tuesday. “The ability to move forward in the aftermath of a horrific attack on our school community depends on the steps we take now to understand the conditions that may have led to this tragedy. A quest for such understanding must be done with both transparency and a sense of urgency.”

He recommended an independent review to be conducted by Collaborative Education Network, Inc., a consulting group. That review will include:

  • A thorough review of the Cruz’s academic records.
  • Identification and review of the academic, social and emotional services provided to Cruz during the time he was enrolled in Broward County Public Schools.
  • On-site interviews with school district staff and agency partners, who provided academic and support services to Cruz.
  • A review of policies and procedures in place during the student’s academic journey.

Runcie wants the investigation to be completed by June.

In the shooting’s wake, some have criticized the district’s discipline policies, which were designed to reduce suspensions and police involvement in school discipline.

“On Monday, Runcie said that while he was still waiting on information, he hasn’t seen any evidence that the district failed to contact law enforcement when it had information of possible criminal behavior involving Cruz,” the Sun-Sentinel reports.

“He said the district has been criticized by some who feel the district’s zero tolerance for weapons policy is too extreme in the other direction,” the paper reports. “A student at Silver Trail Middle in Pembroke Pines was suspended for six days and referred to police in 2016 after she brought a butter knife to school to cut a peach, according to WPLG-Channel 10.

The state of Florida is also conducting an investigation into law enforcement interactions with Cruz. Records show dozens of calls to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office related to the suspect and his brother, including some from people close to him who were concerned about his weapons and behavior and feared he might attack a school. The FBI also failed to investigate a recent tip that Cruz may have been planning to attack a school.

Other states and school systems have conducted similar reviews after school shootings. A 2014 report about the gunman who killed 26 people in a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., painted a picture of repeated missed opportunities—by schools, relatives, and mental health professionals—to intervene in a downward spiral of isolation, emotional instability, and mental illness.

Photo: A memorial to victims of a school shooting outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. --AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.