Finally it's out in the open: Despite what you thought you heard from Broward Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie, Nikolas Cruz had been assigned to the county's PROMISE program.
WLRN has reported that two sources from within school district offices confirmed the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter was, for a time -- albeit, a short one -- part of Broward's troubled-student program known as PROMISE, contradicting Runcie's claim that Cruz never had a connection to it.
Then Runcie's Chief Public Information Officer Tracy Clark said earlier in the month the district had "confirmed" Cruz's referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.
Originating with the Obama administration, the Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education (PROMISE) program is intended to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by redirecting students with disciplinary problems so they avoid incarceration. However, PROMISE was implicated after the death of the 14 students and three teachers at the Parkland high school, and now some investigators believe there was a possibility Runcie and Broward Sheriff Scott Israel were using it to bolster their image rather than improve the school environment.
Once the program was instituted between Runcie and Israel, arrests did plummet, but that may not have been a result of curbing unacceptable behavior. Israel has bragged about expanding the juvenile citation program and issuing citation mandates to his deputies. Within four years of Sheriff Israel instituting the program juvenile arrests were curtailed nearly 50 percent. Crime rates during this period remained static.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the shooting, Runcie has repeatedly declared that Cruz had “no connection whatsoever" to PROMISE. He calls it “reprehensible” that people have tried to use the tragedy to target the program.
“Let me reiterate this point,” Runcie started off during an interview in his office last month. “Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.”
The Broward Sheriff’s Office has also made this declaration.
It raises the question, then, why had Cruz not been directed into PROMISE?
Besides multiple prior Sheriff's Office visits to his home, Cruz had been ushered through six different high schools over a three-year period -- one of those for emotionally troubled and/or disciplinary cases. As previously reported in Sunshine State News, the Department of Children and Families Adult Protective Service Program also made numerous visits to Cruz, with no action taken, even as case workers recorded instances of Cruz declaring his own depression, and telling school officials of his desire to purchase a gun.
In February Broward County Schools in a statement told SSN, “The District has no record of Nikolas Cruz committing a PROMISE-eligible infraction or being assigned the PROMISE while in high school.” This is a telling quote, as it may provide the District, and Runcie, just enough room to maintain plausible deniability in light of sources with Broward Schools confirming otherwise.
The revelation by school officials that Cruz had been in the PROMISE program carries two distinctions. The first is that he was referred to it for committing vandalism at Westglades Middle School, in 2013. Runcie may then hold his statement remains accurate, as he has said, “...while in high school.” Additionally, according to one of the School District sources, “It does not appear that Cruz completed the recommended three-day assignment/placement.” Thus, when Runcie and BSO say he was never in the program, this too can technically be declared an accurate statement.
But what is not excused away is the lack of enforcement of the Cruz admission to the PROMISE program, which becomes yet another systemic failure of authorities to take proper action -- all with this same individual.
For now, it appears Robert Runcie will be relying on those parsed definitions to evade responsibility from ever reaching his office. As his spokesman declared to WLRN, Runcie has “correctly stated” that Cruz was never connected to PROMISE while in high school. This in no way means that any of the actions surrounding this student were “correctly handled.”
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.