Originally Published: August 11, 2018 8:25 p.m.
SUNRISE, Fla. — The parents and spouses of the Florida high school massacre’s victims called for the ouster of their county’s school board, saying the members haven’t done enough to bolster security before students return to class this week.
Tony Montalto, president of Stand With Parkland, the group the families formed after the Feb. 14 attack, pointed at a press conference to the Broward County school district’s decision to abort an internal investigation into the Feb. 14 shooting and to delay installing metal detectors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where his 14-year-old daughter Gina, 13 other students and three staff members died.
“The constant reversals of policy decisions continue to leave our county’s students and teachers at risk and clearly show that there is no unified plan to keep them safe,” Montalto said. “The modern plague of mass shootings in America’s schools forced school districts, administrators and law enforcement across the country to carefully study the lessons of tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook. Many acted quickly to protect students and teachers ... In Broward County there has been no sense of urgency.”
Two parents of victims are running for the board in the Aug. 28 election where five of the nine seats will be decided.
The district said in a statement Thursday saying it’s “understandable that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas families feel frustrated,” but the district has made progress. Superintendent Robert Runcie has said police officers or armed guards will be at all 234 district schools starting Aug. 15.
After the shooting, Florida became the first state to require all public schools have a police officer, armed guard or armed staff member present when open. An Associated Press survey of the state’s 67 districts found many are struggling to hire enough police officers or guards to cover all schools and, like Broward, are turning to sheriff’s offices and police departments to temporarily fill gaps.
Runcie has said the internal investigation was halted because it conflicted with the work of the state commission that’s investigating the shooting and that logistical problems at Stoneman Douglas delayed installation of metal detectors.
“There is no fast, easy fix and there is no roadmap. The District has dealt with the shock and trauma of the shooting, managing the aftermath of the tragedy and a variety of ongoing investigations, as it continues to evaluate new and effective ways to enhance safety and security throughout the school system,” the statement said.
But those explanations have done little to mollify the victims’ families, who crowded around a podium Thursday during a break in a meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. Those who spoke tore into the board and some tore into Runcie.
“The leadership in place is not the right leadership for the times — they are failing,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed.
April Schentrup, who was an elementary school principal in the district when her 16-year-old daughter Carmen died at Stoneman Douglas, said “leadership matters.”
“When we have leaders who wait to have others do their job for them, ask others to do their investigation, ask others to take roles that they should take on their own — that is not the leadership we need,” said Schentrup, whom Runcie appointed to be the district’s director of safety and security in June.
The Stoneman Douglas commission, meanwhile, heard Thursday from a crime analyst who said there’s no personality profile that can predict campus shooters.
Analyst Nevin Smith said the FBI, Secret Service and other researchers who have examined school shootings over the past 20 years agree that no such profile exists. He told the commission that school officials instead should focus on individual student’s behavior. He said his study of the 46 U.S. school attacks over the last 20 years showed that almost all were well-planned and that in 81 percent of the cases at least one outsider knew of the attack in advance and in 59 percent, two or more did.
In the Stoneman Douglas case, officials say law enforcement was told the 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz, a former Stoneman Douglas student, had posted photos online of weapons and had threatened to attack a school.
The commission held a closed door session Thursday to discuss Cruz’s educational, mental-health and medical records. Under federal law, those are private.
Cruz is jailed on 17 first-degree murder charges. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.