Broward County Schools Cited for Threat Assessment Failures

In this Nov. 15, 2018 file photo, Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie walks to the podium to testify during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in Sunrise, Fla. The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre is weeks from filing its initial report, but it has already had an impact - two sheriff's officials are off their jobs and four school administrators were reassigned after allegations of malfeasance were presented at the commission.
Image: Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, Pool, File

Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission recommends Broward schools revamp the threat assessment process. 

The public safety commission investigating the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cited policy and training failures at the school and at the district level in its draft report, made available this week.

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the commission investigating the February 14, 2018, school shooting in Parkland, Florida, said Stoneman Douglas administrators:

  • Did not know how to conduct threat assessments
  • Did not have an active assailant response policy
  • Had no written policy on how to call for a lockdown of the school
  • Did not provide formal training of campus monitors
  • Did not provide staff formal training in how to respond to an active shooter

Further, the commission said School Principal Ty Thompson was “disengaged from the threat assessment process” and failed to create reporting procedures that ensured he knew about threats on campus.

According to the story, the Broward school district averages two threat assessments per day. Once paper forms are completed, they are placed in the student’s school record folder.

The Mishandled Cruz Threat Assessment in 2016

The commission indicated Assistant Principal Jeff Morford mishandled a threat assessment of Nicolas Cruz, the former student charged with the shooting deaths, in September 2016, and will recommend the school district investigate that incident.

As part of that threat assessment, Assistant Principal Denise Reed interviewed Cruz, and he was then barred from bringing a backpack to school. Police searched his home for firearms, though none were found at the time.

The school district documented nearly 70 incidents involving Cruz and students reporting concerns to teachers and administrators.

In one reporting — which occurred midway through the year after the threat assessment — a student testified to the commission that he and a classmate told Morford that Cruz could be a school shooter, and that they witnessed Cruz looking up guns on a school computer and making concerning statements.

The student testifying said neither Morford, nor a sheriff’s deputy who was in the room when he was giving the report, were concerned. Morford reportedly told the student to “Google ‘autism’.”

Morford, Reed and Assistant Principal Winfred Porter, Jr. have all been transferred by the school district.

The commission will recommend Broward schools revamp the threat assessment process, ensuring findings are reviewed by school principals or higher authorities.

Commission to Make Several School Safety Recommendations

The commission is recommending a series of school safety changes be made across the state, including a policy to train and arm volunteer teachers.

Max Schachter, whose son was killed in the shooting, cast the sole dissenting vote to include that policy. Schachter’s peers are part of a national campaign that focuses on ending gun violence through a health approach.

The draft report also states the school fumbled lock down procedures, increasing the death toll:

Some were shot because they were not notified to lockdown. This was most evident on the third floor.”

The 20-member commission is made up of sheriffs, school officials, state officials and some parents of Parkland shooting victims and a mental health professional.

The final report is due to the state by January 1, 2019.

Read the original story on the Sun Sentinel website.

Read our related coverage:

Florida Commission to Recommend Series of School Safety Measures

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.