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.

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

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
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
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 Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

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

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
School Climate & Safety Sponsor
Putting safety first: COVID-19 testing in schools
Are schools ready to offer a post-pandemic place to learn?
Content provided by BD
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says Teens Are Driving COVID-19 Surges. Can Schools Counteract That?
Teenagers and young adults are now driving COVID-19 cases in some states, and experts say schools may be critical in preventing outbreaks.
4 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Opinion Empowering Teachers and Parents to Speak Up on School Safety
Rick Hess shares practical suggestions from Max Eden on how to ensure school discipline reforms are indeed keeping students and staff safe.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Climate & Safety Audio Driving the School Bus, Waiting for a Vaccine
A veteran bus driver holds out hope he won't get COVID-19 while awaiting his first vaccination.
3 min read
Eric Griffith, 55, poses for a portrait in front of a school bus in Jacksonville, Fla. on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Griffith, who has been a school bus driver for 20 years, delivered meals and educational materials during the first couple months of the coronavirus pandemic when schools shifted to remote learning.
Eric Griffith has been a bus driver for Duval County schools in Jacksonville, Fla., for 20 years. He's been driving students all year and hopes to get his coronavirus vaccine soon.
Charlotte Kesl for Education Week