Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was suspended 67 days in less than a year and a half; ‘culture of leniency’ in Broward district under scrutiny

A review of the disciplinary procedures in Florida’s Broward District has found that the school district appears to favor maintaining a positive image than appropriately disciplining students, many of them repeat offenders.

The Sun Sentinel performed a review of the school district’s disciplinary policies, examining records and interviewing school administrators, and found that misbehaving students often dodge serious consequences, even for violations that could be considered criminal in nature.

“The culture of leniency allows children to engage in an endless loop of violations and second chances, creating a system where kids who commit the same offense for the 10th time may be treated like it’s the first,” the Sun Sentinel article states.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a deadly mass shooting in February, is in the Broward District. Suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz attended schools in the district, including Westglades Middle School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, until he was expelled. Cruz, 19, is accused of killing 17 students at the high school after opening fire there on February 14.

Records obtained by the Sun Sentinel showed that Cruz was suspended 67 days in less than a year and a half while attending Westglades Middle School.

Teachers and parents reportedly claimed that school officials in the district advocate for nurturing and mentoring problem students rather than subjecting them to stronger discipline, even if the behavior calls for it. A school performance and accountability officer reportedly created an instructional video for teachers and school staff advising them to hand down suspensions, expulsions, and the involvement of law enforcement only as “absolute last resorts.”

Cruz had reportedly been assigned to the district’s Promise program, which offers alternative discipline and extra monitoring of students who commit minor crimes on campus, rather than have them arrested. The intent of the program is to curb the “school to prison” pipeline, and was created in response to racial minority students having been disproportionately subject to harsh discipline and arrests. But according to the Sun Sentinel report, the district’s leniency extends far beyond the presence of the Promise program.

“[M]any teachers and parents say Broward has created a culture in which teachers are expressly told or subtly pressured not to send students to the administration for punishment so a school’s image is not tarnished,” the report reads.

Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie sent a memo to teachers last week stating that he was commitment to improving the disciplinary efforts in the school district.

“[W]e have to be vigilant in reporting every incident so that we can ensure our students who are victims, as well as offenders, get the appropriate intervention and support,” the memo read.

“We’re going to try to make sure, from the top, we’re sending the right message related to discipline and holding our schools accountable.”


[Feature image: Mike Stocker for South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool, File]