Florida school district officials have admitted that the confessed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killer was assigned to an alternative school discipline program — but previously the Broward County school superintendent claimed more than once that Nikolas Cruz had "no connection" to the program, WLRN-FM reported.
What's the background?
The PROMISE program — Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education — lets students who commit certain misdemeanors at school avoid the criminal justice system by attending an alternative school where they're counseled and receive other support, the station said.
PROMISE made headlines when a Broward student journalist reported that the program let students like Cruz escape punishment. Superintendent Robert Runcie called such claims "fake news," WLRN said.
But there's more: Runcie also said there's no link between Cruz and PROMISE, the station said.
"Let me reiterate this point," Runcie noted in an interview last month, WLRN reported. "Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program."
He also said, “I’m not going to allow a shift from what our focus needs to be to a fictitious narrative that’s being made up about a successful program that we have in Broward County that has no connection to the shooter or the situation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," the station added.
Does a referral count as a 'connection'?
WLRN said Cruz was referred to PROMISE after committing vandalism at Westglades Middle School in 2013, citing two sources with knowledge of Cruz’s discipline records.
The station said it asked the district about this revelation Friday — and by Sunday Runcie spokeswoman Tracy Clark said the district "confirmed" Cruz's referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.
Let the word games commence
While Clark told WLRN Cruz showed up for an intake interview the day after the vandalism, she added that it "does not appear that Cruz completed the recommended three-day assignment/placement."
Broward Sheriff's representative Jack Dale added that "the school board reports that there was no PROMISE program participation” in regard to Cruz, WLRN reported. It isn't clear what, if anything, happened to Cruz as a consequence.
However, Clark said the superintendent "correctly stated" Cruz wasn’t in PROMISE when he attended Stoneman Douglas, the station reported. But WLRN also said Runcie hasn't always referred specifically to Cruz's time in high school.
More from WLRN:
Cruz’s high school discipline records, obtained by WLRN, show he got in trouble for fighting and verbal assault while at Stoneman Douglas — but those infractions didn’t meet the eligibility requirements for PROMISE. In both cases, he was suspended.
During the interview last month, Runcie said he couldn’t discuss details of Cruz’s school records because of a federal law that shields student privacy.
And he stressed that school discipline procedures are more complicated when it comes to students with disabilities. Administrators are required by federal law to consider whether a student’s misbehavior is related to his or her disability, and if it is determined that it is, they are required to provide support for the disability rather than punish the behavior.
Cruz was diagnosed with a developmental delay as a small child, the station added.
He bought the semiautomatic rifle used in the Parkland killings after passing a federal background check in February 2017.
How did Sen. Marco Rubio react to the Broward admission?
U.S. Sen. Marco (R-Fla.) didn't seem pleased about the revelation:
I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about. Now… https://t.co/HXWI9caZMB— Marco Rubio (@Marco Rubio) 1525696087.0
How the Obama administration plays into this
The administration of former President Barack Obama pushed these new discipline guidelines in 2014, and RealClearInvestigations said compliance was tied to threats of losing federal funding.
Prior to his time as the Broward superintendent, Runcie worked for Obama’s first education secretary, Arne Duncan, in the Chicago public school system.
(H/T: Hot Air)