School Climate & Safety

Schools Chief Says No One Reported Alleged Shooter’s Troubling Social Media Posts

By Denisa R. Superville — February 15, 2018 5 min read
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie speaks during a news conference on Feb. 15, near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed the day before in a mass shooting.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Some students in Parkland, Fla., said they knew about disturbing social media posts by the alleged gunman in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The posts, they said, suggested a penchant for violence.

But the top official in the Broward County school district said he did not know of those posts or other warning signs that Nikolas Cruz was a serious threat to his former school.

“We didn’t get any reports,” Superintendent Robert Runcie said in an interview. “There were no signs that we received from anyone. I think part of it was related to the fact that this student was really disengaged from school.”

Cruz, 19, was arraigned in a Florida courtroom on Thursday afternoon on 17 counts of premeditated murder. He had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.

Authorities said he took an Uber to the high school on Wednesday afternoon, entered around dismissal time, and opened fire with an AR-15, killing 17 people, including staff and students.

See Also: ‘I Didn’t Want Them to Panic': Amid Chaos, Teacher Sheltered Students in Fla. School

CNN reported on Thursday that Cruz was reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for threats he made online.

The report was related to a YouTube post under the name “Nikolas Cruz,” who wrote: ”Im [sic] going to be a professional school shooter,” according to the news channel.

Robert Lasky, the special agent in charge for the FBI, said at a news conference on Thursday that the YouTube posting came to the agency’s attention in 2017. The agency conducted a review, but the post did not have a specific date or location, and the agency was unable to identify who had made the comment, Lasky said.

The Associated Press reported that Jordan Jereb, the leader of a white nationalist group, said Cruz was a member of the Republic of Florida, which wants Florida to become a white ethno-state.

Neither the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee nor the Southern Poverty Law Center could confirm any link between Cruz and the militia.

Jereb appeared to back away from his claim later Thursday. Someone posting under his name on Gab, a social media site popular with far-right extremists, complained about getting criticized over a “prank,” claimed there was a “misunderstanding” and said he received “a bunch of conflicting information,” the Associated Press reported.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told CNN that Cruz had been treated at a mental-health clinic, but had not been to the clinic for more than a year.

“It wasn’t like there wasn’t concern for him,” Furr said.

A Tip Line for Reporting Concerns

But it seems there may have been a major gap between what students may have thought of Cruz’s potential for danger and what school officials knew. Runcie acknowledged at a news conference Thursday that the district was providing supports for Cruz, but did not specify what they were.

But in an interview with Education Week, Runcie said he could not discuss the types of supports that Cruz was receiving, or any information about Cruz’s health or academic records without running afoul of federal student-privacy laws.

Cruz had been enrolled at a different district school, but he may have stopped attending, Runcie said.

Runcie said Broward County has a tip line, and both students and staff use it to report social media posts and other things that may cause alarm or suspicion. In one instance, a tip led authorities to search a young person’s home and retrieve firearms, he said.

“When they see things on social media, and they hear about something that’s not right, we get reports,” he said. “We’ve got a tip line. People call in. They send social media posts…We take all of those seriously. We investigate them, and we take precautions at the schools because we don’t want to be wrong once.

But nothing like that came to light in Cruz’s case, he said.

A portrait of a troubled Cruz emerged on Thursday. His mother died from pneumonia late last year and his father had died years earlier from a heart attack, according to the Associated Press. He had moved in with a friend’s family in Broward County.

See Also: The Parkland School Shooting: Complete Coverage

Said Runcie: “If we know there are students out there—young people who are not in school, they are not connected to some kind of activity, they don’t have a mentor or somebody that’s on them or in their lives—that is a huge sign and recipe for trouble. We know that. This stuff is not rocket science.”

“We just need to be courageous to step up now and do the thing that’s right—put the investments where we need to prioritize them so we can keep our kids, our communities, and our country safe.”

At a Thursday news conference, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and other authorities urged people to say something if they see something that’s not right.

Educators ‘Sacrificed Their Lives’

Runcie said that teachers and staff did the best that they could with what they faced on Wednesday.

“Our first responders on the campus basically sacrificed their lives to help save our kids,” he said. “I believe that we did what we could have. There is never going to be any perfect scenarios for these situations when you are in it. We can look at it from afar and make assumptions.”

He singled out the two staff members who were killed—an athletic coach and a teacher—as “heroes.”

“All of those individuals were enormously respected and liked by the students,” he said. “They were literally our first responders.”

As soon as they realized that something was amiss, they stepped up, he said.

“They jumped into position, they got their radios, and they stepped up and put their lives on the line to avert an even larger tragedy,” he said.

“Their families and the community should be proud that they sacrificed themselves so our young people can have an opportunity to have a life and a future.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will remain closed through the weekend, and the district will decide then when the school will re-open and how best to support students and staff when they return.

“Our focus is on our families, our students, and our staff,” Runcie said.

“We continue to ask folks for their prayers and their support,” he continued. “We thank everyone for the acts of kindness that we have seen and the generosity. We are going to continue to need that and a lot more of it as we go through this. ...This is going to last quite a while and we are just going to have to come together as a community to get ourselves to some level of normalcy at some point in the future. But it will never be the same.”

Related Tags:

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Close the Gender Gap: Getting Girls Excited about STEM
Join female STEM leaders as they discuss the importance of early cheerleaders, real life role models, and female networks of support.
Content provided by Logitech
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety How a Superintendent Urged Parents to Discuss Gun Violence With Their Kids
The leader of the school district that serves Monterey Park, Calif., encouraged parents not to "let the TV do the talking."
5 min read
A woman comforts her son while visiting a makeshift memorial outside Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. Authorities searched for a motive for the gunman who killed multiple people at the ballroom dance studio during Lunar New Year celebrations.
A woman comforts her son while visiting a memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif., two days after a gunman killed 11 people and injured several others as they celebrated Lunar New Year.
Jae C. Hong/AP
School Climate & Safety Guidance on Responding to Students' Questions About Shootings
A guide for educators on ways to foster a sense of safety and security among students at a time when gun violence seems widespread.
4 min read
People gather for a vigil honoring the victims of a shooting several days earlier at Star Ballroom Dance Studio, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. A gunman killed multiple people late Saturday amid Lunar New Year's celebrations in the predominantly Asian American community.
Two days after a mass shooting that killed 11 people, people gather for a vigil outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, Calif. In the aftermath of shootings and other community violence, educators are called on to help students process their emotions and help them feel safe.
Ashley Landis/AP
School Climate & Safety Many Schools Don't Have Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Are They Overlooking the Risk?
Less than a quarter of states have laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in school buildings.
5 min read
Image of a carbon monoxide detector with a blurred blueprint in the background.
iStock/Getty
School Climate & Safety Students of Color Disproportionately Suffer From Police Assaults at School, Says Report
A new report tallies up assaults by school-based police officers on students of color.
6 min read
Deputy Carroll walks the hall of Rice Elementary School with an administrator on Wednesday.
A school police officer walks the halls of Rice Elementary School in Greenwood, S.C., with an administrator on April 6, 2022.
Lindsey Hodges/The Index-Journal via AP