The Broward County School Board – and the Schools Superintendent, Robert Runcie — have been under a microscope for one full year now. The embattled body has been going through all manner of controversial acts and reports since the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February. Since those 17 lives were taken the focus on the board has been intense, and it has not been kind.
In a series of press conferences new Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued proclamations aimed specifically at ensuring safety in the state’s schools. In Broward County he announced his calling for a Grand Jury to look into the safety regulations and actions taken by administrators regarding school safety members.
In the morning DeSantis called on the Florida Department of Education to investigate the state’s PROMISE program, designed for students who commit non-violent misdemeanors. The goal of the program is to keep students out of the criminal justice system, but flaws were exposed when it was learned the Parkland shooter was failed by this very program.
In addition the Governor opened up access to $150 million for the state’s sheriff’s departments. Called The Guardian Program it will be used for training of non-teaching staff members to become permitted to carry guns on school campuses.
This week makes for a tough series of realities, beginning with the one year anniversary on Feb. 14, meaning a revisit to the tragedy, and all the problems that led to trauma. Then just yesterday a report came out that this school board, and Runcie, declined a provision five years ago. Now compounding their problems, Governor Ron DeSantis came to the county today to announce his plans for revising the makeup of what he regards is a dysfunctional school board.
There was a hitch in any desire the governor may have had to force Runcie to step down. His position was by appointment, not via election, and thus he is not under the Governor’s purview. However the school board members – who are duly elected – are removable and so that would be the pathway to changing things at thee top. However he noted they are recently elected, just months ago. So rather than override the intentions of the voters, he will investigate potential errors and negligence to justify taking direct actions.
Many in Broward County, including numerous parents in the Parkland area, are interested in seeing change take place. As reported in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Broward schools passed on a proposal in 2013 for $55 million in tax dollars to be allocated for school safety. Coupled with what is deemed as a failed new program of changing arrest standards concerning problem students, arranged with ousted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, this is another dagger in the reputation of Robert Runcie.
The reasons for the denial of those safety funds was that Runcie declared he had his own safety plan in place. Also, the larger board resisted the idea because the funds would not be in its total control. As the school board has exhibited numerous times this year, it is regarded as an almost secretive body. Numerous times it has withheld information regarding the shooting, and local journalists have had to file FOIA requests just to have public documents made available.
At one stage the board was going to sue the local paper for releasing details from one heavily redacted report. The Parkland shooter was also found to have been a constant pass-the-buck issue ahead of the tragedy, moved from various schools, and entered into rehabilitative programs with no following up on his attending. Also, just weeks before the shooting, a Parkland father and former Secret Service agent gave the school lengthy tips on improving security on campus. Administrators and school board members took no action on the advice.
Records found even indicated that on numerous occasions the shooter had indicated his own depression to school officials, and that he had a desire to purchase a gun. Along with the numerous times of law enforcement being called on the youth, there were repeated issues with disciplinary actions and emotional issues exhibited by the shooter. The abundance of red flags surrounding him makes the actions – and inactivity – by the school and the school board a deep problem.
Changes are blatantly needed. Weeks ago the removal of Sheriff Scott Israel was a step towards repairing problems. Today was another example of taking needed action.