Student Journalist Digs Up Bombshell that Exposes Broward County Officials in Parkland Shooting
by Cillian Zeal
An independent report from a student journalist who attended Broward County, Florida, schools says there was significant inattention paid to security issues in the years leading up to the Parkland shooting.
According to the piece, written by 19-year-old Kenneth Preston and published on Medium, only a fraction of the money allocated for school security in Broward schools was actually spent on safety measures and that Obama-era school behavioral policies, purportedly designed to counteract racial bias, led to problem students like the shooter evading punishment.
“After weeks of research, searching through thousands of pages of government documents, and speaking with dozens of officials, I have come to the conclusion that Superintendent [Robert] Runcie and members of the school board have failed at their essential role in keeping our students safe,” Preston wrote. “Whether that’s because of incompetence or the incentive of federal dollars is for you to decide based on the evidence provided below.
“Ultimately, no matter what laws pass, the extent, or how infrequent these shootings become, if the people who were complicit in facilitating an environment in which something like this could occur don’t face consequences, then there is no justice.”
Preston wrote that of $800 million in voter-approved school funding available to Broward schools, “$104,325,821 was designated specifically for school safety.” “Of that money, only $5,584,512 (roughly 5.3%) has been spent since its passage,” he said. “If the school safety money continues to be doled out at the current rate of 1.76% spent per year, Broward Public Schools will not see the entirety of that safety money for another 53 years, or the year 2071.” The decision not to spend the money on school safety didn’t just have hypothetical consequences in the Parkland shooting, either.
As The Blaze reported, one of the safety items that was supposed to be installed in Broward schools was a device that would determine if a fire was actually present after a fire alarm was pulled. That device was never installed, and the Parkland school shooter pulled the fire alarm to force students out of their classrooms, making them easier targets. Preston also claimed that Broward’s implementation of the Promise Program and the Behavior Intervention Program — Obama-era programs designed to stop the “school-to-prison” pipeline by lessening punishments at schools with “disproportionate discipline rates” — might have contributed to the shooting.
“In March of 2013, the Department of Education listed Broward County as one of those counties with ‘disproportionate discipline rates,'” Preston wrote. “Months later, Robert Runcie and the Broward School Board applied and become finalists for the ‘Race to the Top’ grant after promising their intent to have an ‘evaluation of proposed indicators around attendance, suspensions, and arrests and promoting school-wide, positive behavior interventions.’
“Soon after, Superintendent Robert Runcie, the School Board, and the Sheriff’s office created ‘Promise,’ a program intended to address the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ by outlining 13 misdemeanors that formerly would have been referred to law enforcement, but are now dealt by administrators instead. “Those misdemeanors include harassment, fighting, assault, and threats — all of which Nikolas Cruz was reported for, but never arrested.” (Emphasis Preston’s.)
“Robert Runcie claims the shooter never benefited from the program because he was never formally enrolled in the Promise Program,” Preston noted. “Broward Schools released a statement saying, ‘the District has no record of Nikolas Cruz committing a PROMISE-eligible infraction or being assigned the PROMISE while in high school.’ “However, Jeff Bell, President of the Broward Sheriff’s Union and supporter of the Promise Program says, ‘There’s no documented report that he was ever enrolled into the PROMISE Program. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t confronted with something and just let go.‘” (Emphasis Preston’s.)
Preston also called out a “culture of corruption” on the county school board when it came to spending and noted that a grand jury found the corruption so deep it suggested in 2011 that the board be dissolved entirely.
The student journalist also noted Runcie’s dubious performance at his previous job with Chicago Public Schools — where he was demoted three months before accepting his position with Broward County — and the fact that the county’s school spending habits were under scrutiny by state tax watchdog groups.
Since the shooting, Broward has instituted some transparency, although not quite of the kind that Preston might support. The most visible school safety measure taken since the massacre (literally) is mandating transparent backpacks for students. Meanwhile, activists continue to blame the whole thing on the diabolical AR-15 — which is a solution Broward Sheriff Scott Israel seems perfectly fine with, since it absolves his department of any public liability in the matter. Meanwhile, Superintendent Runcie remains in his job, much like Sheriff Israel, and he isn’t making any moves toward transparency.
“Without knowing Superintendent Runcie’s motives for taking the actions he did, it’s nearly impossible to say why the money wasn’t spent and why such lax disciplinary policies were instituted,” Preston notes in conclusion, calling for an independent investigation.
“What is clear is that the Superintendent failed to take the appropriate security precautions. He has not at any point after the tragedy at MSD acknowledged the mismanagement of school safety funds, indicated any sort of intention to reform the way the Board functions or assumed any responsibility for the systematic failures that occurred in failing to properly deal with (the shooter).”
Preston said Runcie called his meticulously sourced investigation “fake news.” “I reached out to Florida Taxwatch, and Vice President of Research Robert Nave has told me that my numbers are correct,” he wrote.