So much remains unresolved about whether or not the Broward County Sheriff’s Department made mistakes that cost 17 people their lives.
In addition, the FBI’s inaction is also being tagged as a contributing factor because they ignored numerous warnings given to them about the alleged killer prior to the shooting.
While a number of failures may have led to the shooting, one possible contributing factor is not being mentioned in the mainstream media.
Soon after the Florida High School shooting, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel announced that one of his deputies, Scot Peterson “never went in and didn’t pursue the Parkland shooter.”
It is a claim that Peterson adamantly denied in a written statement released on Monday through his attorney Joseph DiRuzzo III.
DiRuzzo wrote, that Israel had “maligned” his client in public statements in which he said Peterson should have gone in and “addressed the killer, killed the killer.”
Peterson now says that when the gunfire started he “thought that the shots were coming from outside,” and that’s why he “took up a tactical position.”
DiRuzzo stated that “Peterson was the first member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to report the gunfire. He also gave the local SWAT team keys to the building where the shooting happened, drew diagrams of the campus for them, and helped school administrators access security videos.”
It has also been reported that two other deputies from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department also waited outside of the school while students and staff were being killed by the gunman.
Many are calling for Governor Rick Scott to suspend Israel if he will not resign. However, Israel appears to have no intention of resigning. In fact, he hails himself as being a great sheriff with no responsibility for what any of his deputies may have done wrong.
But is there another factor (other than the actions of the sheriffs’s department and the FBI) which may have set the stage long ago for what eventually happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?
In order to answer the question, we must take a look back at what was done in 2014 by the Obama administration.
As you may recall, Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder were concerned that African-American, Hispanic and other students of color were being disproportionately impacted by the discipline that schools meted out.
In January 2014, the Obama administration unveiled national school discipline guidelines and instructed teachers to remove students from classrooms based on disciplinary reasons only as a last resort.
The new guidelines were aimed at creating “positive climates” focused on preventing misbehavior while relying on strategies like social-emotional learning programs, peer mediation and restorative justice.
Mental health professionals were also critical to the success of the guidelines. They were to be used to assess students’ needs and provide them with support.
In addition, when law enforcement officials were involved, the guidelines made it clear that it was the school, “not school resource officers or other security or law enforcement personnel” who would administer routine student discipline. Students’ “civil rights or student privacy laws” took priority.
Professional development and training programs were to also be provided to law enforcement officers about “how to engage students, promote positive behavior and respond to misconduct.”
Finally, another objective of the guidelines was for the schools to “strive to keep students “in school (emphasis added) and engaged in learning to the greatest extent possible” and “remove students from the classroom as a disciplinary consequence only as a last resort (emphasis added) and only for appropriately serious infractions.”
Below is a partial timeline of school related information about the alleged shooter that provided warning signs. Were the signs tolerated simply because of Obama-era school discipline guidelines?
- In February 2016, a tipster told the sheriff’s office “Nikolas Cruz planned to shoot up the school.” He’d only started attending Stoneman Douglas a few weeks earlier.
- Feb. 5, 2016 – A neighbor’s son tells BSO that Cruz, pictured with guns on Instagram, “planned to shoot up the school.” A deputy responds, discovers Cruz owns knives and a BB gun, and forwards the information to Marjory Stoneman Douglas high’s school resource officer Scot Peterson.
- Sept. 28, 2016 – Another student informs Peterson that Cruz may have ingested gasoline a week earlier and is cutting himself. That student, who is a “peer counselor,” says Cruz indicated he wished to purchase a gun for hunting. The school says it will conduct a “threat assessment” on Cruz. The incident is reported to the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF), which sends investigators to his home. “Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” investigators wrote, noting that he also “had a Nazi symbol drawn on his book bag.” DCF determines he is receiving adequate support from his school and outpatient care from Henderson Behavioral Health in Broward County. A team from Henderson found Cruz “stable enough not to be hospitalized.”
- Nov. 30, 2017 – A caller from Massachusetts tells BSO that Cruz is collecting guns and knives and “could be a school shooter in the making.” The caller says Cruz is now living in Lake Worth. A BSO deputy tells the caller to contact the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Some students at the high school reportedly noted behaviors about Cruz prior to the shooting:
- Cruz “threatened to bring the guns to school multiple times,” senior Eddie Bonilla said. Other students, he said, “threw jokes around that he’d be the one to shoot up the school.”
- Brandon Minoff, a senior at Douglas who said he had two classes with Cruz two years ago, said that while it was “surreal” to hear Cruz named as the suspect, “I wasn’t surprised.”
- “I got paired with him for a project, and he started talking to me about his life — how he was held back twice, expelled from two private schools,” Minoff said. “He likes to do reckless stuff.”
- Douglas student Drew Fairchild told The Miami Herald that in 9th grade Cruz “used to have weird, random outbursts, cursing at teachers.” And former classmate Nicholas Coke recalled to the paper an incident in middle school when Cruz kicked out a glass window.
- Another former classmate, Joshua Charo, told the paper that Cruz seemed to only want to talk about “guns, knives and hunting.”
- Cruz “used to tell me he would shoot rats with his BB gun and he wanted this kind of gun, and how he liked to always shoot for practice,” Charo said.
- Charo said Cruz was suspended from Douglas for fighting and because he was found with bullets in his backpack.
- Student Victoria Olvera told The Associated Press that Cruz was kicked out of Douglas for fighting with a boy who had been seeing his ex-girlfriend.
- Douglas senior Sebastian Toala told NBC Miami, “I never really got close to him, because I always had a feeling there was something wrong.”
- Sophomore Isabella Gomez said she recognized Cruz as a “strange kid” whom she often saw around school. She recalled that when Cruz was prohibited from carrying a backpack he carried his things in a Ziploc bag.
- Gomez said she had a troubling brief encounter with Cruz, when they bumped into each other in a hallway. “I used to say he looks like no good,” Gomez said.
Administrators, teachers and students appear to have known quite a bit about Nikolas Cruz. Yet it appears that his behaviors were condoned far too long.
No one has reported that the Florida high school was following the Obama guidelines but since Broward county is a blue, liberal county, there is no reason to doubt that the school readily adopted the policies.
Are other schools following the Obama-era guidelines and continuing to put students at risk because they don’t want to take action to remove them from the school because it would “violate” the 2014 Obama school guidelines?
I would respectfully request that the Secretary of Education make it her priority to find out post haste.
If the policies are still being followed in schools then the Trump administration should act to change how schools should respond to such behaviors in the future.
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