Broward County student journalist Kenneth Preston published the findings of an in-depth investigation on Thursday that uncovered damning evidence proving Broward County school officials slacked on school security in the years leading up to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
The findings also refute the mainstream media's claim that firearms, specifically the AR-15, are to blame for the massacre.
What did Preston uncover?
Preston discovered that in 2014, an $800 million bond was allocated to Broward County Public Schools, with more than $100 million earmarked directly for school safety. However, many of the planned safety upgrades to county schools were delayed due to concerns over costs.
One of the delayed projects was an improvement to MSD's fire system "that allows a delay to determine if there's an actual fire before the alarm triggers," according to Preston. If that improvement had been made, seeing that the murderer pulled the fire alarm, students' lives could have been saved because they wouldn't have left their classrooms as there was no actual fire.
In all, Preston discovered that only $5,584,512 — or about 5 percent — of $104,325,821 allocated for school safety in 2014 has been spent on it since.
But that's not all. Preston learned that Obama-era school behavioral programs, like The Promise Program and the Behavior Intervention Program, led troubled students, like the massacre's perpetrator, to escape punishment.
"After weeks of research, searching through thousands of pages of government documents, and speaking with dozens of officials, I have come to the conclusion that Superintendent Runcie and members of the school board have failed at their essential role in keeping our students safe. Whether that’s because of incompetence or the incentive of federal dollars is for you to decide," Preston wrote in an article outlining his findings.
"Ultimately, no matter what laws pass, the extent, or how infrequent these shootings become, if the people who were complicit in facilitating an environment in which something like this could occur don’t face consequences, then there is no justice," he wrote.
How did Broward County Schools react?
According to Preston, superintendent Robert Runcie called his meticulously sourced investigation "fake news."
"Superintendent Runcie called an article referencing this report 'fake news' and recommended anyone interested in facts should look to Florida TaxWatch, an independent organization tasked with overseeing the distribution of the money. I reached out to Florida Taxwatch, and Vice President of Research Robert Nave has told me that my numbers are correct," Preston wrote in his article.
Preston also outlined his findings in a tweet thread:
2) Just to clarify, I'll be referring to the shooter exclusively by his case number, 18-1958, for the duration of this thread in respect of the families wishes not to give any attention to his name. So, here's what you need to know.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
3) Over the last month, I’ve dug through thousands of government document pages and interviewed dozens of people. I found evidence of two things: over $100m in school safety funds that have gone unspent and policies that keep violent students (like 18-1958) out of jail.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
4) First, the money. In 2014, Broward Schools was given an $800m bond, with over $100m specifically for school safety. Since then, delays have led to only 5% of the money spent. Despite safety being the #1 priority of the bond, many projects were delayed to avoid increased cost.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
5) In a tweet, Superintendent @RobertwRuncie called our report "fake news" and suggested we contact @FloridaTaxWatch, an independent group tasked with helping to oversee the distribution of the money. So I did. FL TaxWatch VP of Research Bob Nave agreed with my numbers. pic.twitter.com/hjo256j3vt— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
6) One of those delayed projects was a $1m fire system for Stoneman Douglas. People familiar with the project told me that the district considered upgrading its systems with an "alarm sequence", that allows a delay to determine if there's an actual fire before the alarm triggers.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
7) When Stoneman's fire alarm sounded, students fled from their classrooms directly into the path of the shooter. The "positive alarm sequence" would have kept the alarm from sounding for up to three minutes if it was determined there was no fire, and in this case, there wasn't.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
8) The school resource officer was aware of shots fired within one minute of the alarm. In a situation like this, seconds count. Had the alarm been put in on time and with the suggested upgrade, that delay could have potentially saved students from running into the line of fire.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
9) In a meeting with Runcie & officials, I was told the system wasn't invented when the money was allocated and that it wasn't suggested until last year. However, the tech has existed since the 80s, and the Fmr Dir. of School Safety recommended a similar system years ago. pic.twitter.com/fppWs1vN5K— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
10) Part Two of the Investigation: Broward's discipline policies that help keep potentially dangerous students like 18-1958 in schools and out of jail.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
12) In 2013, @browardschools and @browardsheriff signed an agreement to consider alternatives to arrest when dealing with student misconduct. On the agreement's list, it says that if a crime constitutes a felony, the officer may "consider" placing the student under arrest. pic.twitter.com/dFuJOkyo5J— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
13) This agreement was part of an effort to lower student arrests by reshaping school discipline. As a result, troubled students who previously would have been reported to police are now entered into "rehabilitation programs." Within years, Broward's arrest rate plummeted. pic.twitter.com/d2JptAlPBW— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
14) Even if students aren't enrolled in these programs, school admins aren't required to report potentially dangerous students to law enforcement. The current discipline matrix gives administration complete discretion to decide "appropriate consequences" for student misbehavior. pic.twitter.com/YtoI4VEPJI— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
15) An example of the danger in these policies would be middle school student Jayla Cofer, who was attacked so brutally that she was hospitalized with bruised legs, torn skin, and deep wounds. Her attackers were never arrested, but instead placed in a rehabilitation program. pic.twitter.com/sqDZEhjWpE— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
16) More recently, two students from Flanagan High claimed that a fellow student was threatening to kill over 20 people. The student was briefly suspended and allowed to return back to campus alongside the students he threatened to kill. The list goes on. pic.twitter.com/9FC8VoZkrI— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
17) Similar to these incidents, 18-1958 was never arrested despite threatening to kill students, bringing bullets to school, and being involved in multiple fights. Had he been charged and convicted, he likely wouldn't have had access to weapons he used.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
18) After I presented this info, the Superintendent and Board took time to defend themselves instead of allowing survivors to speak. The Superintendent praised music, athletic and tech programs, but failed to acknowledge that all of those programs were prioritized over safety.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
19) Board Member @ReverendRos went as far as to suggest that our inquiry into these concerns was an exploitation of bloodshed for "personal gain". She's the same board member who removed her kids from the school district over "safety concerns." pic.twitter.com/on4nIjn5vZ— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
20) Ultimately, it was the shooter and only the shooter who's responsible for killing 17 and injuring 17 more. It's also true, however, that the officials tasked with keeping our children and teachers safe have failed in that essential role.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018
21) Despite these failures, there hasn't been a single change in leadership. Parkland and this community deserve leaders who put our children first. In the coming weeks, we'll announce our plans to do exactly that. We have mourned, we have marched, and now we mobilize.— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston) April 27, 2018