After a highly emotional and very short Broward County school board meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Robert Runcie, for the first time, addressed the revelation that administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had requested the school board conduct a threat assessment on Nikolas Cruz in January 2017, more than a year before Cruz killed 17 people at the Parkland school last week.
“He was involved in fighting and an assault and that there was reference that he was referred for a threat assessment. Can you tell me what happened with that threat assessment?” Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman asked the superintendent.
“I can’t in detail discuss student records, but I will tell you that students get into conflict and altercations — that’s something that happens in schools,” Runcie said.
“But this is a student that you know he had swastikas on his backpack, he had an obsession with guns that was known,” Norman said.
“I can’t speculate on where a student is going to go based on behaviors. We have staff that evaluate where a student is,” Runcie said.
“Did they fail in this case?” Norman asked.
“You know, I would say the whole entire system failed, from federal to state to local,” Runcie said.
This was the first time Runcie admitted that the school board bears at least part of the blame for the tragedy after school records obtained by Local 10 showed the school board was aware that Cruz, who was diagnosed as emotionally disabled, was transferred from a special behavioral center to Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2016, even though educators were aware even before the move that Cruz was preoccupied with guns, violence and people being killed.
“We have students that are in behavior centers and then we try to integrate them back into their traditional schools,” Runcie said. “That’s not unusual in this district or any other district.”
“But isn’t it unusual that a student (who) exhibits an obsession with violence, guns, that he would be transferred to a school of 3,300 people?” Norman asked.
“We are going to review, you know, obviously, everything that we’ve done around this particular student and figure out what we can do better as a district,” Runcie said.
There are also questions about whether Cruz was provided the specialized services he needed while enrolled at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Runcie said only that there’s a process in place for all ESE students like Cruz and “that process was followed.”