Florida ed officials lied about Parkland shooter's involvement in PROMISE program

Following the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie vehemently denied the killer's connection to or participation in his controversial PROMISE program. 

In a March 23 Sun-Sentinel op-ed, Runcie pushed back against "fake news" related to the mass shooting: 

Contrary to media reports, the district has no record of Nikolas Cruz committing a PROMISE eligible infraction or being assigned to PROMISE while in high school.

A few weeks ago, in an interview in his office with WLRN-TV, a Miami PBS affiliate, Runcie called the mass murder a "horrific accident" and repeated his assertion there was no interaction between PROMISE and Cruz:

Let me reiterate this point, Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.

Turns out, Runcie's many denials over these past few months were the real "fake news."

A few days ago, WLRN received word from two sources familiar with Cruz's school records that, contrary to Runcie's prior statements, the shooter was referred to the PROMISE program in 2013, after vandalizing a bathroom at Westglades Middle School. 

On May 6, Runcie's district spokeswoman, Tracy Clark, confirmed the WLRN report.

Clark said Cruz arrived at an alternative facility, Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, for an initial intake interview and three-day stint in PROMISE.  Clark said Cruz did not complete the assignment and would not speculate about the possible reasons for his failure to do so.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered by Cruz, said the "stunning revelation ... flies in the face of previous statements."  Petty tweeted this:

Best practices for threat assessment were not in place in Broward schools. In fact many discipline programs were in direct conflict with established best practices. Our children and teachers are still at risk[.]

Senator Marco Rubio also weighed in, tweeting, "I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about.  Now it turns out that in fact he was."

Before he killed 17 and injured 17 others at Stoneman Douglas, Cruz had a long record of fights, vandalism, death threats, and bringing a weapon to school, which makes his opting out of the PROMISE program with no referral to the Juvenile Justice System of Care a violation of the program's policy. 

Did Cruz appear before PROMISE's "mandatory" Juvenile Justice System of Care?  Students are referred to the system if they refuse to participate in the PROMISE program or if they do not fulfill the terms of the PROMISE agreement.  Spokeswoman Tracy Clark mentions an intake interview at Pine Ridge, not a hearing. 

From a PROMISE document:

Every attempt will be made to ensure the parent[s]/guardian[s] and students understand the severity and urgency of completing participation in PROMISE.  Parent[s]/guardian[s] and students should note that failure to fully engage in all aspects of PROMISE, including completion of the entire program, will cause the PROMISE liaison to initiate a Juvenile Justice System of Care Intervention Referral and the student may be arrested for the original offense[.] ...

If the child does not appear before the Juvenile Justice System of Care ...  [the] child may be subject to arrest for the original offense.

Runcie's strong denials of Cruz's connection to the PROMISE program make sense if there was no follow-up hearing after Cruz failed to meet the requirements of the program.

When Runcie's "no arrest" policy came under fire as a factor in allowing Cruz to pass a background check and purchase a firearm, despite 45 calls to the Sheriff's Department from 2008 to 2017 and numerous school infractions, the superintendent distanced Cruz from the program.

Runcie isn't the only official complicit in his school system's failure to protect Broward County students. 

Besides the Sheriff's Department, the PROMISE document lists the 17th Circuit Judicial Court, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Broward County Public Defender's Office, and Broward County State Attorney's Office as participants in circumventing laws already in place.

Was Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, aware of the PROMISE program's potential harm to Broward County students?

If Cruz had been arrested for the crimes he committed as a juvenile, instead of having the school system, law enforcement officers, and the justice system all bending over backwards to protect him because of a truly "perverse" program, 17 people might still be alive.

Following the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie vehemently denied the killer's connection to or participation in his controversial PROMISE program. 

In a March 23 Sun-Sentinel op-ed, Runcie pushed back against "fake news" related to the mass shooting: 

Contrary to media reports, the district has no record of Nikolas Cruz committing a PROMISE eligible infraction or being assigned to PROMISE while in high school.

A few weeks ago, in an interview in his office with WLRN-TV, a Miami PBS affiliate, Runcie called the mass murder a "horrific accident" and repeated his assertion there was no interaction between PROMISE and Cruz:

Let me reiterate this point, Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.

Turns out, Runcie's many denials over these past few months were the real "fake news."

A few days ago, WLRN received word from two sources familiar with Cruz's school records that, contrary to Runcie's prior statements, the shooter was referred to the PROMISE program in 2013, after vandalizing a bathroom at Westglades Middle School. 

On May 6, Runcie's district spokeswoman, Tracy Clark, confirmed the WLRN report.

Clark said Cruz arrived at an alternative facility, Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, for an initial intake interview and three-day stint in PROMISE.  Clark said Cruz did not complete the assignment and would not speculate about the possible reasons for his failure to do so.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered by Cruz, said the "stunning revelation ... flies in the face of previous statements."  Petty tweeted this:

Best practices for threat assessment were not in place in Broward schools. In fact many discipline programs were in direct conflict with established best practices. Our children and teachers are still at risk[.]

Senator Marco Rubio also weighed in, tweeting, "I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about.  Now it turns out that in fact he was."

Before he killed 17 and injured 17 others at Stoneman Douglas, Cruz had a long record of fights, vandalism, death threats, and bringing a weapon to school, which makes his opting out of the PROMISE program with no referral to the Juvenile Justice System of Care a violation of the program's policy. 

Did Cruz appear before PROMISE's "mandatory" Juvenile Justice System of Care?  Students are referred to the system if they refuse to participate in the PROMISE program or if they do not fulfill the terms of the PROMISE agreement.  Spokeswoman Tracy Clark mentions an intake interview at Pine Ridge, not a hearing. 

From a PROMISE document:

Every attempt will be made to ensure the parent[s]/guardian[s] and students understand the severity and urgency of completing participation in PROMISE.  Parent[s]/guardian[s] and students should note that failure to fully engage in all aspects of PROMISE, including completion of the entire program, will cause the PROMISE liaison to initiate a Juvenile Justice System of Care Intervention Referral and the student may be arrested for the original offense[.] ...

If the child does not appear before the Juvenile Justice System of Care ...  [the] child may be subject to arrest for the original offense.

Runcie's strong denials of Cruz's connection to the PROMISE program make sense if there was no follow-up hearing after Cruz failed to meet the requirements of the program.

When Runcie's "no arrest" policy came under fire as a factor in allowing Cruz to pass a background check and purchase a firearm, despite 45 calls to the Sheriff's Department from 2008 to 2017 and numerous school infractions, the superintendent distanced Cruz from the program.

Runcie isn't the only official complicit in his school system's failure to protect Broward County students. 

Besides the Sheriff's Department, the PROMISE document lists the 17th Circuit Judicial Court, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Broward County Public Defender's Office, and Broward County State Attorney's Office as participants in circumventing laws already in place.

Was Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, aware of the PROMISE program's potential harm to Broward County students?

If Cruz had been arrested for the crimes he committed as a juvenile, instead of having the school system, law enforcement officers, and the justice system all bending over backwards to protect him because of a truly "perverse" program, 17 people might still be alive.