Parkland Shooter Asked School For Help But Was Dropped From Services Instead
Parkland, FL – Broward County Public Schools failed to provide, and denied, services to the student who would become the mass shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, according to a report released on Friday.
Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruled Aug. 3 that a heavily-redacted version of a consultant’s report on the gunman’s school records should be released to the public, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The report was commissioned by the school district and dealt with the specific details of school shooter’s records.
However, the person responsible for distributing the redacted report saved the document incorrectly, and when members of the media copied and pasted the content from the page to another word processing software, all the blacked-out words reappeared, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The report by the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee pretty much let the school district off the hook for its failure to prevent what would be the worst school shooting in U.S. history.
They recommended that Broward schools reconsider how such cases were handled, and suggested the Parkland shooter could have been offered more help in his final two years in school, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Critics said the detailed report provided significantly more insight into the gunman’s history of disciplinary problems and violence. And the report also showed that the future school shooter had been denied services that had previously shown to keep him on the right path.
The boy who would grow up to murder 17 classmates and faculty, and wound 17 more, was first identified as having major problems when he was kicked out of pre-K at age three, according to the consultant’s report.
His father died in front of him at age five, the same year school records indicated the boy became more aggressive with his biting, pinching, scratching and pulling hair, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
He struggled to communicate and follow instructions, and exhibited “animal fantasies” that, despite “high levels of reinforcement,” the school district said “appeared to be unpredictable.”
“It must be noted that in particular, [the student] seems to identify as an animal,” the report said. “He often crawls on the floor or ground, pounces on another student, makes seemingly animal-like growling sounds and grimaces while holding his hands in a paw-like manner.”
He grew out of behaving like an animal, but by 3rd grade his teachers said he was “often sad and pessimistic” and apologized unnecessarily, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
By 8th grade, he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere at school without a security or faculty escort.
When the school district moved hims to Cross Creek School for students with severe behavioral and emotional disorders later that school year, he improved, the report said.
Despite the fact that he was still having “impulse control” issues in May of 2015, the school district decided it was a good time to try to mainstream him at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The report said they also decided to “discontinue the behavior intervention plan. During interviews school staff explained that this decision was based on the fact that the target behaviors were no longer in evidence and the plan was no longer needed,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.
He started out part-time at the high school in the fall, and in January of 2016, he started attending full time.
Three weeks later, the Broward Sheriff’s Office got a tip that the future gunman had posted his intention to commit a school shooting on Instagram, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Despite all indications to the contrary, Collaborative Educational Network determined in their report that the Broward school district had made the right decision in transferring him out of Cross Creek School.
It started out alright, but he had an emotional meltdown in September of 2016, and tried to commit suicide at the start of his junior year. By November of 2016, school officials were meeting with his mother to make arrangements to switch up the plan, again.
“Upon entering the room and seeing the Cross Creek representatives, the student immediately became upset and verbally aggressive. He refused to sit at the table, angrily repeating that he would not go back to Cross Creek and that he wanted only to stay at Stoneman. He intended to graduate from the school,” the report summarized the emotionally charged session.
Two members of the Cross Creek staff gave the future school shooter his options – they told him he could return to Cross Creek, or stay at Marjory Stoneman Douglas but give up all of his special needs accommodations that he’d had since the age of three. They also told him he had the option to sue the school district, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
His mother wanted him to return to Cross Creek, but because he was 18 years old, the decision was legally his – and he opted to remain at the Parkland high school.
According to The New York Times, the law and school district policy actually allowed the young man to keep the protections that they removed when he didn’t return to Cross Creek.
However, the disturbed young man didn’t know that, and gave up all help and accommodations on Nov. 3, 2016 in order to stay at his high school.
As a result, the student who was progressing at Cross Creek in 9th grade flunked out of Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 8, 2017. Three days later, he legally purchased the AR-15 rifled he would use for his Valentine’s Day massacre a year-and-three-days later, The New York Times reported.
Two months after he was forced out of the high school, he tried to re-enroll in Cross Creek but the school district told him he’d have to start fresh and be re-evaluated for disabilities first, despite a 15-year record of his specific educational and behavioral challenges.
There was never any follow-up and the student didn’t return to Cross Creek. The next time he would set foot on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would be for his shooting rampage on Feb. 14.
The consultant’s report chronicled the life of a deeply-troubled young man who was unable to overcome his propensity for violent outbursts and antisocial behavior, but laid little blame at the feet of the school district officials who were responsible for the failure to properly provide services to him, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
The response of the school district to the consultant’s findings evidenced no sign of urgency.
“We accept the recommendations regarding procedural improvements, and are pleased with the overall review, recommendations and findings,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie said in a statement on Friday. “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.”