Numerous government officials are to blame in the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS

High School
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A new 157-page draft report on the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reveals the myriad failures on the part of school officials, law enforcement officers and mental health providers on the day that shooter Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and staff members.

The February 14 shooting at the Broward County high school has reverberated in Florida and around the country, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission has been reviewing what happened and how it can be fixed. The solutions will undoubtedly mean a more strict environment at schools, according to the document.

The Florida Phoenix reviewed the lengthy report that covers the school shooting incident and makes recommendations on improvements. Here are key parts of the report.

Security failures

–Cruz initially entered the high school through an open, unstaffed pedestrian gate – which wasn’t unusual. The report said “unlocked and opened gates were regularly left unstaffed for long periods of time.” Administrators blamed the problem on a lack of personnel.

–Teachers “inconsistently locked classroom doors,” including some doors that were unlocked on the day of the shooting. “Teachers were reluctant to enter the halls to lock the doors.”

–In the building Cruz entered (Building 12), exterior video cameras were inadequate to cover the building. And the school district didn’t allow law enforcement “real time” access to school camera systems, so officers didn’t know if Cruz had left the building.

–The school district had no “Code Red” policy, meaning school personnel didn’t know or understand the criteria for calling a Code Red (such as who would call it and when). The lack of a policy meant little training and no drills, leaving students and staff vulnerable to being shot. In fact, the Code Red announcement on February 14 was not made until Cruz had finished shooting victims.

–A campus monitor who first saw Cruz entering the school building admitted he recognized Cruz’s rifle bag and considered Cruz a threat. But he failed to call a Code Red – even after Cruz started shooting. Other staffers also did not call a Code Red.

–A now former deputy, Scot Peterson, was “derelict in his duty” when he fled to a position of personal safety while Cruz shot and killed students and staff. And, based on evidence, Peterson made no effort to investigate the source of gunshots. In addition, he didn’t get to the building involved after the first shots were fired and 21 victims had already been shot and some killed, among other concerns.

–A sergeant who was the first supervisor responding to the scene at the school was ineffective and “failed to coordinate or direct deputies’ actions.” Other officers were considered ineffective as well. According to the draft report, the Broward sheriff’s office should conduct an internal review of the conduct by certain law enforcement officials.

The troubled shooter: Nikolas Cruz

–At least 30 people had knowledge of Cruz’s troubling behavior before the shooting, but they didn’t report it –or it was not acted upon by people who received the concerns.

–At least six people stated that they brought concerns about Cruz and his behavior, including discussions about Cruz being a “school shooter” to an assistant principal. That administrator denies all reports or claims and says he does not recall the reports and/or discussions. His “veracity in denying knowledge or recollection of these incidents is questionable,” the report states. In addition, Broward schools should conduct an internal investigation into the assistant principal.

–The FBI failed to appropriately process and respond to the information it received regarding Cruz. The FBI has taken remedial measures to rectify the flaws in its processes and system that allowed the failure to occur.

–The Broward County Sheriff’s Office failed to appropriately process and respond to the information it received regarding Cruz in November 2017, and it disciplined the deputy involved for not properly investigating the incident.

–Cruz made several social media posts that raised concerns about his behavior. Like so many other situations, there were missed indicators of targeted violence by Cruz in these posts. Cruz had a widely known fascination with guns and the military and a history of animal abuse, which are all primary indicators of future violent behavior.

–Cruz had several different public and private mental health providers. There was some care coordination, but no master case management. No one health professional or entity had the entire “story” regarding Cruz’s mental health and family issues.

Recommendations to ensure adequate security:

–The Legislature should consider creating a permanent body to oversee the physical security of schools.

–All school campus gates must remain closed and locked and should be staffed when students and staff go in and out.

–Each school and district should have a written, unambiguous Code Red policy, and those schools and districts should be sanctioned if that policy isn’t in place.

–All school districts should allow law enforcement to monitor camera systems, live, at all schools in a district.

–Schools should implement policies prohibiting students and staff from wearing any type of headphones or ear buds that prevent them from hearing emergency warnings and instructions.

–All school radio traffic should be recorded.

–Schools should consider using metal detectors and x-ray machines at campus entrances.

–Schools should install electronic message boards in every classroom.

–The Legislature must require and pay for ballistic glass on all school windows by 2025.

–The Legislature should increase funding for school resource officers and/or certain school personnel who can be armed to aid in incidents at schools.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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