For months, students and parents have said that officials in the Broward County School District and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were culpable in the February shooting rampage in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead because they failed to properly address issues surrounding the gunman.
New evidence to support that claim emerged Friday, when a report performed for the school district revealed that it did not provide therapeutic services for confessed killer Nikolas Cruz even though he wanted them, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The report said that in the 14 months prior to the shooting, Cruz did not receive any special education services he was entitled to.
The criticism is not new, according to the Sun-Sentinel. In April, shooting victim Anthony Borges challenged Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and School Superintendent Robert Runcie in a statement that said, “I want to thank you for visiting me in the hospital. But I want to say that both of you failed us students and parents and teachers alike on so many levels.”
The report was initially shared with most of the document redacted. However, when the electronic file containing the text was opened in a different software, the text was readable, the newspaper said.
The report from the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, Florida, said the district should review how cases similar to Cruz are handled. More help could have been offered to Cruz in his final two years in school, the report said.
The report highlighted two areas. It said Cruz was not given all necessary information about his options when he was faced with being removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to The New York Times. Due to that, he rejected special education services, the report said.
The district “did not follow through” when Cruz wanted to return to Cross Creek School, the report said. Cross Creek is an alternative school for special education students where Cruz spent ninth grade.
The report contradicts past claims of the district that Cruz rejected special education services, and instead said that he wanted help he did not receive.
The report said that at one point, Cruz’s mother told the school that Cruz, who initially wanted to graduate high school from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, accepted that Cross Creek was his better option.
“She said he had come to realize that the only way he would achieve his goal of graduating from high school would be to return to Cross Creek,” the report said.
However, the report said, the process would have required a six-week evaluation of Cruz. He also was required to re-enroll in the school he did not wish to attend, Stoneman Douglas. Further, the report said, school officials said that by the time Cruz made his decision, it was too late in the year for him to enroll in the new school.
The report made little criticism of the school until Cruz’s junior year at Stoneman Douglas. Schools chief Runcie seized upon that part of the report in a statement he issued on Friday.
“We accept the recommendations regarding procedural improvements, and are pleased with the overall review, recommendations and findings,” Runcie said. “We are actively reviewing our policies and procedures, training protocols and data systems in an effort to implement the recommendations in a timely and effective way.”
Cruz’s attorney called the report a “whitewash,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“I think that the report is an attempt by the school board to absolve itself of any liability or responsibility for all the missed opportunities that they had in this matter,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant public defender.
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