A new report detailing the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School reveals the 19-year-old killer asked officials for help months prior to the attack — but the school district denied him the assistance he requested.
The report comes nearly 6 months after the killer murdered 14 children and three teachers. For months, questions about the school district's culpability in the tragedy have gone unanswered.
What are the details?
In the year leading up to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, [the killer] was stripped of the therapeutic services disabled students need, leaving him to navigate his schooling as a regular student despite mounds of evidence that he wasn’t.
The school district's failure to properly handle the killer's behavioral issues were revealed in report commissioned by the Broward public school system. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer on Friday ordered the report be released, but with heavy redactions.
However, the Sun-Sentinel managed to obtain the full, unredacted report.
The report, authored by the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, concluded the Broward school district made two glaring missteps when handling the killer's behavioral issues, ultimately failing to comply with laws on the treatment of students with disabilities.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, those two instances were:
- District officials "misstated" the killer's educational options during his junior year when faced with the possibility of being removed from MSD, leading him to refuse special educational opportunities afforded to troubled students.
- When the killer asked school officials to return to the "therapeutic environment" of Cross Creek School, a school for troubled students, Broward officials "did not follow through."
Because of the district's missteps, the killer "had no school counseling or other special education services in the 14 months leading up" to the Valentine's Day tragedy, the Sun-Sentinel reported. That means he was treated as a regular student, despite his need for special care.
After the district failed to "follow through," the killer dropped out in February 2017 and purchased the AR-15 rifle he later used in this year's tragedy, the Daily Beast reported.
Does the report align with district officials' claims?
According to the Sun-Sentinel:
In the past, [Broward Schools Superintendent Robert] Runcie said that when Cruz turned 18 and rejected special education placement, the district could no longer provide him with the services given to students with emotional and behavioral disabilities. But the consultant’s report reveals for the first time that Cruz himself requested to return to special education, and his request went nowhere.
How did the killer's legal team respond?
Gordon Weekes, the spokesman for the killer's public defender legal team, told the Sun-Sentinel the report is an attempt by the district to "whitewash" their mistakes.
"I think that the report is an attempt by the school board to absolve itself of any liability or responsibility for all the missed opportunities that they had in this matter," he said.