Law & Courts

Parkland Victims’ Families Reach $25M Settlement With Broward School District

By Scott Travis, South Florida Sun-Sentinel — October 19, 2021 3 min read
In this Feb. 15, 2018, file photo, law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., following a deadly shooting at the school.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The families of 52 people killed, injured, or traumatized during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have reached a $25 million settlement with the Broward School District, the lawyer for the families confirmed Monday.

The largest payments will go to the 17 families whose children or spouses were killed, and they will each receive an equal amount, attorney David Brill said. Brill would not provide further detail on amounts or how the money will be divided.

The settlement could end a 3 ½ year battle between the school district and family members of victims, who alleged the school district’s negligence contributed to a troubled former student walking onto the campus on Valentine’s Day 2018 and killing 17 people and injuring 17 others.

“It’s a fair and frankly remarkable result,” Brill said. “It gives the families a measure of justice and accountability.”

While the terms have been reached, the settlement agreement is still being drafted, Brill said. With no signed agreement yet, the school district declined to comment Monday.

“This continues to be pending litigation, which the District does not comment on,” said a statement from the office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch.

Brill said the parties have worked out an arrangement that will enable the families to collect without having to wait for approval from the Florida Legislature, which is the normal process for a government settlement over $300,000. He declined to provide specifics.

The settlement is “painful money” that provides little solace, said Andrew Pollack, who became a fierce critic of the school district after his daughter Meadow was killed.

“It’s hard to talk about money because your daughter was murdered,” he said. “How could you be happy about it?”

See Also

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie at left. Clockwise from left are parents Tony Montalto, Ryan Petty, Max Schachter, Andrew Pollack, Fred Guttenberg, and Lori Alhadeff.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie at left. Clockwise from left are parents Tony Montalto, Ryan Petty, Max Schachter, Andrew Pollack, Fred Guttenberg, and Lori Alhadeff.
Josh Ritchie for Education Week<br/><br/>

Samantha Fuentes, 21, is one of the surviving victims. She suffered gunfire shrapnel wounds on her face, arms, and legs.

“There’s no amount of money that could reverse the event that happened on February 14th. There’s no monetary amount that could be given that fixes my mental illnesses, my physical disability, or erase the memory that will always haunt me and my entire community,” she said.

“All that I hope is that this provides a foundation for those who have been affected who are struggling whether that’s mentally, physically, or financially to get the resources they rightfully deserve,” Fuentes said.

She said the recovery has been a “painful and tedious process” and she still experiences pain in both her legs daily.

“It fluctuates but some days it can be unbearable,” Fuentes said.

The plaintiffs include two current members of the Broward School Board: Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed, and Debbi Hixon, who lost her husband Chris, a coach and security monitor at Stoneman Douglas. Hixon declined to comment, while Alhadeff couldn’t be immediately reached.

The School Board has been discussing the case in closed sessions for more than two years, although Alhadeff and Hixon were not part of the discussions.

Payments will be made to the families of 17 people who died, 16 of the 17 who were injured, and 19 who suffered severe trauma, Brill said.

It’s hard to talk about money because your daughter was murdered. How could you be happy about it?

One victim not included in the settlement is Anthony Borges, a student who was one of the most severely injured survivors. Bullets ripped into his lung, abdomen, and legs.

“There was a concern by the rest of the families that Borges was just demanding more than the fair share,” and it was jeopardizing the settlement, Brill said.

Borges’ lawyer Alex Arreaza split off from the larger suit, citing a need for lifelong care that is expected for his client. He said it’s an “emotional argument,” not a legal one, to say those whose loved ones died are entitled to more money.

“The other parents will always say at least your child is alive,” he said. “Out of all the 34 people (killed or injured), my client is the one that has the biggest doctor’s bill.”

Arreaza said he expects a settlement in his client’s case within the next few days.

The families still have open litigation against two former school district employees, security monitors Andrew Medina and David Taylor, accused of failing to respond once they were aware killer Nikolas Cruz was on campus.

They are also suing the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Scot Peterson, a BSO school resource officer who didn’t enter the building during the shooting. Those cases are still pending.

The announcement comes three days after lawyers for Cruz announced he would plead guilty to the murders, avoiding the need for a trial. A jury is still expected to decide whether he should receive the death penalty or life in prison.

Copyright (c) 2021, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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

Law & Courts District Can Deny Opt-Outs on LGBTQ+ Books, Court Rules
Religious parents objected to a Maryland district's policy ending opt-outs for elementary school 'storybooks' with LGBTQ+ themes.
5 min read
A pedestrian passes by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Courthouse, June 16, 2021, on Main Street in Richmond, Va.
A person walks near the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's courthouse in Richmond, Va. A panel of the court denied an injunction seeking to restore religious parents' opportunity to opt their children out of LGBTQ+ "storybooks" in a Maryland district.
Steve Helber/AP
Law & Courts Brown v. Board of Education: 70 Years of Progress and Challenges
The milestone for the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation in schools is marked by a range of tributes
12 min read
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
People mill around the third floor of the Kansas Statehouse in front of a Brown v. Board of Education mural before hearing from speakers recognizing the 70th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case on April 29, 2024 in Topeka, Kan.
Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP
Law & Courts Republican-Led States Sue to Block New Title IX Rule
A pair of lawsuits focus on the rule's protections for students' gender identity.
5 min read
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Demonstrators advocating for transgender rights and healthcare stand outside of the Ohio Statehouse on Jan. 24, 2024, in Columbus. Four Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration's new Title IX regulation, which among other things would codify protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Patrick Orsagos/AP
Law & Courts Why It Will Now Be Easier for Educators to Sue Over Job Transfers
The case asked whether transferred employees had to show a 'significant' change in job conditions to sue under Title VII. The court said no.
8 min read
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022.
Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building at dusk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. The high court on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, made it easier for workers, including educators, to sue over job transfers.
Patrick Semansky/AP