In the months following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the citizens of Broward County have been subjected to ever-growing evidence community leaders have been culpable -- or at a minimum, neglectful in their duties. Now we learn of more problems, even as the focus of activists continues to be elsewhere.
Said a very misinformed speaker this past Saturday during a Parkland students-led protest of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Va., “United, we will overcome a Russian-funded NRA that puts profits before lives.” (A question: If they are indeed funded by the Russians, why would there need to be a focus on revenue?) The speech was made during an event dubbed the National March on the NRA, and the timing -- as well as the location -- were rather misguided.
On the very same day the nonprofit Second Amendment organization was accused of profit-chasing, a report commissioned by the Broward School Board in the wake of the Parkland school shooting was released to the public.
Since the horrific Valentine's Day massacre, when 17 lives were taken by Nikolas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there has been a laundry list of reports detailing various authorities failing the community. This, by allowing the troubled student to go unhelped and to act unhindered.
Adding to the list has been a dark comedy of errors leading to the release of the report. Initially, Cruz’s defense lawyers argued against the commissioning of the report, stating it would prevent any chance of a fair trial. Another point made by counsel identified the report as an attempt by School Board members to clear them of responsibility. However, the board has been embattled with local media over the release of various reports, and security video from the school.
On Friday a judge ruled the report was indeed public knowledge and ordered it to be released. But then the 27-page report came out in heavily redacted form. This was said to be done to protect privacy rights; however, the School Board fumbled the effort. Instead of presenting copies of the blacked-out pages, the report was delivered as digital documents.
The Sun-Sentinel found that when the report was transferred to a secondary file format, the redactions were removed, and the full report was in fact readable. The Sun-Sentinel published much of it -- an act that disarmed the School Board.
On Monday the board asked a judge to hold the South Florida Sun Sentinel and two of its reporters in contempt of court because, the board says, the newspaper intentionally published information it knew a judge had ordered to be redacted.
"Sun Sentinel reporters Brittany Wallman and Paula McMahon, acting on a Facebook tip from a reader ... discovered on deadline the concealed text could be viewed," the newspaper reported. "The reporters quickly rewrote the story reflecting the entire report, providing the first detailed account about the school shooter's years in the school system, what the district knew about him and what mistakes were made."
Certainly the School Board was interested in more than privacy concerns. It also was interested in protecting the findings that showed a lack of sufficient support for the troubled student. This, despite the fact that Cruz had shown positive progress when placed on a special education campus in the eighth grade.
The apparent errors happened during his high school career. At one point the report notes that, following some behavioral issues, Cruz had been presented with options that were in error. It led to him opting to refuse certain services. Probably more notable, at one point Cruz requested he be placed again at Cross Creek, the school where he responded favorably to the environment therein.
The report states that after the shooter made the request, officials “did not follow through.” The result was, Cruz received no special services, and no counseling, for over a year. This detail contradicts prior claims made by School Board officials that they were powerless to affect the transfer, as he was 18 years old. It also becomes yet another detail showing area authorities were derelict in certain duties.
That is why it was with dismay we saw crowds gathered outside the National Rifle Association offices this weekend. To truly bring forth changes, activists surely had gathered in the wrong location, directing their lectures and outrage at the wrong target.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.