It’s a trifecta of horribleness with the Broward County School District — incompetence, dishonesty, and now heartlessness.
In the aftermath of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the BCSD was the target of criticism after it was reported that their discipline policy did not require arrests for even acts of violence or threats to school safety, all the more so after it was revealed that the confessed shooter had been referred to the controversial alternative school PROMISE program, contrary to Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie’s insistence that he had not.
Runcie, like his counterpart at the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Scott Israel, has been frantically trying to repair his tattered reputation since the shooting, so you would think that, at minimum, the school district would place a priority on showing compassion for the families of victims of the shooting.
You could think that…but you would be wrong.
April Schentrup’s daughter Carmen was only 16 years old when she was murdered that awful day in February. Understandably, this was a traumatic time for the family and Schentrup wanted to take some time off work to grieve the loss of her daughter. Schentrup is the principal at Pembrooke Pines Elementary School, another school in the BCSD system.
Schentrup signed up to speak during the public speaking time at this Tuesday’s Broward County School Board meeting, and harshly condemned the way she was treated, as well as what she and her husband Philip Schentrup characterized as foot dragging by the administration in enacting security reforms.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Schentrup said that the district initially tried to dock her pay for the time she took off and that Runcie said to her, “this is not a part-time job” when she tried to ease back into work.
Schentrup also mentioned that not one of the nine school board members called her family or sent cards to offer their condolences until May 8th — the day after she added her name to the list of speakers for Tuesday’s school board meeting.
Adding to her frustration was the impression that the BCSD was not serious about making reforms to prevent a future tragedy.
“The same administration and security staff that allowed the worst tragedy in Broward school’s history are still in charge of discipline and security today,” she said.
Phillip Schentrup affirmed his wife’s comments, expressing his own hurt and anger over how they had been treated.
“A week after my daughter was murdered, Mr. Runcie came to my house, sat at my kitchen table, told my wife and I the school district had done everything right,” he said. “That was an outrage, given I was burying my 16-year-old daughter.”
“I believe the district is dragging its feet,” he continued, “not because it did everything right as stipulated by Mr. Runcie, but because it did so many things wrong.”
BCSD’s public information officer Tracy Clark told reporters that the district has now reinstated April Schentrup’s pay for the time she took off in February and March, and approved a leave of absence for her designed to have “the least impact” on her accrued leave time.
Of course, it must be noted that this was not done until after the BCSD was aware that the Schentrups would be speaking publicly, when they added their names to the list for Tuesday’s meeting. The media has been paying much closer attention to the machinations of various Broward government entities since the shooting, so this is damage control.
The national media has been treating school shootings as if they were a black-and-white “are you going to enact stricter gun control laws, or not?” type of issue, but the concerns of the actual families of the victims show a much broader set of concerns, as this story illustrates.
The Schentrups have been asking pointed questions about school security measures, saying that Stoneman Douglas violated established security protocols by having the school gates open 20 minutes before dismissal and no personnel monitoring who entered or exited. Two other parents of students who were killed in the shooting, Lori Alhadeff and Ryan Petty, announced earlier this month that they are running for the school board, challenging two incumbent members.
Petty, along with another father of a Parkland victim, Andrew Pollack, took an active role in supporting recent legislation passed by the Florida legislature and Congress, helping organize public statements from the victims’ families endorsing bills like the STOP School Violence Act, and taking multiple trips to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators.
It shouldn’t take a grieving parent standing up at a school board meeting for them to do the right thing. Substantial reforms are needed, and needed soon.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]