Photo by Sharon Aron Baron

By: Wayne Alder 

From the March 19, 2018 Education Advisory Board Meeting:

Last December, I sat on the Parkland Education Advisory Board and promised I would dedicate this coming year to school safety. I said that we have no greater duty than to keep students safe when they are in school.

Little did I know just how badly the very individuals and institutions in charge of that safety were failing our children and schools resulting in the deaths of 17 teachers and students.

Much attention is now being given to certain subjects as a result of these murders – and in doing so those responsible for the failures are escaping the proper scrutiny for the real failures that led to these murders. This diversion from those responsible cannot continue.

The Office of the Broward County Sheriff’s failed the citizens of this county

They failed before the shooting started and afterward. They failed to take appropriate action numerous times to bring this monster into custody after what is reported to be over two dozen police interactions with him. When the school sought to investigate this individual, the SRO office refused to cooperate. 

As we all know, the office of the Broward County Sheriff failed on the day of the shooting. They failed to confront killer – not just the SRO but others on scene. Their acts, both direct and indirect, delayed rescue personnel from entering the building, likely causing additional deaths.

The acts of the Broward County Sheriff’s that day were incomprehensible. I was on scene eight minutes after the shooting stopped.  While the shooter was still at large, I asked BSO to put armed guards on all entrances and exits of Westglades Middle School, which is adjacent to Douglas so the killer did not enter that school building. The BSO officer on site refused, however, I was able to convince a Coral Springs Police officer to post armed guards at Westglades.

Individual BSO officers are, by and large, great and dedicated people, but the failure of this magnitude demands change. These officers deserve leadership worthy of their dedication.

On Monday night, I asked the Education Advisory Board of Parkland to make a recommendation to the commission that the city terminate the BSO contract if Sheriff Israel will not immediately resign his post. Clearly, there was a failure of leadership. The people of Parkland deserve more than words and slogans – they deserve proper leadership.

The Broward County Public Schools and its leaders failed us

Much has been made of the Promise Program – a system where by infractions that would be addressed by police in the schools would be de-escalated so that no report of a crime would be made. All this was done in exchange for lower crime statistics, so that the District could access additional monies from the State and Federal government.

I understand the District has stated that this killer was not “part of the promise program”.  This is untrue. Every student in Broward County Public Schools is part of the Promise Program, because the Promise Program has been written into the discipline matrix of Broward Schools. If the changes to the discipline matrix had not been made through the implementation of the Promise Program, this individual would have been been subject to direct police action long before he became a killer.

Now residents of Parkland are left to wonder how many other ticking time bombs are in our schools, left undetected by this discipline matrix. And the answer is: we don’t know and the District does not know.

But their failures didn’t end there

When the administration of Marjory Stoneman Douglas asked for an investigation of this person it is reported that the District failed to undertake such an investigation. Another lost opportunity. As of last year the District failed to even review 100 of the 238 schools under their care for single point of entry improvements, despite an 800 million dollar bond the District sold to the public as needed for school safety.

Failure of this magnitude demands change

I ask that this board recommend that the City of Parkland demand the termination of Superintendent Runcie and the entire school board, so that citizens get the proper leadership they need.

Others to blame

The FBI, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and others all failed. But we can’t immediately address that here within the confines of this advisory board. I am hopeful the governor, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the federal government will, if we as citizens keep the pressure on, address these failures.

Discussions of yoga and schools lunches are nice when you have the luxury of safety.  We know now that we never actually had that safety.  What we had was the illusion of safety.  We must act, and act now to obtain real safety for our children and staff.

I understand the city commission is busy, and backlogged with work, but when I look at the city commission’s agenda for the upcoming meeting I do not see even a mention of the events of that happened on Valentine’s Day.

If they won’t act, we will

This study must not only get immediate Single Point of Entry at all schools in Parkland, we must make such measures meaningful. On Monday morning, I witness a single point access to a school with the gate wide open when the students were arriving – with no SRO or administration person there looking to see who was entering the school with the students – an open invitation for anyone to walk into the school.  This cannot continue. We need system-wide changes, and we must investigate immediately what is needed and how to get it done.

Marches and rallies are one thing, but they won’t stop someone with evil intent if we leave our schools open to them. We cannot allow the feeling that we are doing something to replace actually doing something.

If the chairman will allow, I will put together some recommendation as to how this study should be undertaken and provide him my suggestions for the full board vote on how I propose we undertake this study.

I request the following matters be added to the agenda for the next EAB meeting

  • A vote on the  EAB making a recommendation to the city commission that they proceed with the necessary steps to terminate the BSO contract if Sheriff Israel will not immediately resign his post.
  • A vote on the EAB making a recommendation that the city commission demand the resignation of Superintendent Runcie and the entire school board, so that proper leadership in the District may be had.
  • A vote of the EAB to undertake a direct study to recommend a course of action to the city commission to  make our schools actually safer, with the first order of business an immediate review of single point of entry of all Parkland schools,  and thereafter a review of what system wide changes are needed .

I would also ask that the member of the District staff, who stated at the last meeting that he was responsible for implementation of the Promise Program and the discipline matrix, be invited to attend the next meeting so that we may ask questions.

No date has been set for the April Educational Advisory Board Meeting.  Stay posted here or on our Facebook Page.

A Parkland resident of 13 years, Wayne Alder sits on the Parkland Educational Advisory Board and is a litigation attorney with Kaufman Dolowich Voluck.

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