Stone­man Dou­glas ad­mins sue Run­cie

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - Local - [email protected]­, 561-243-6637 or Twit­ter @sm­travis.

Three em­bat­tled ad­min­is­tra­tors from Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High are su­ing Broward Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Robert Run­cie, say­ing they acted hero­ically dur­ing the Feb. 14 mas­sacre but are now be­ing used as scape­goats for the dis­trict’s se­cu­rity fail­ures.

The three as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals, Jeff Mor­ford, Denise Reed and Win­fred Porter, say Run­cie took “il­le­gal and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated dis­ci­plinary ac­tions” when he re­moved them from the school Mon­day and placed them un­der in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The dis­ci­plinary no­tices … put the cen­ter of blame on em­ploy­ees who in part risked their lives on Feb. 14, 2018 and not Run­cie and/or the dis­trict as to any lack of train­ing and lead­er­ship,” the suit al­leges.

The three ad­min­is­tra­tors, who have been as­signed to jobs in dis­trict of­fices, are not al­lowed to com­ment on the case at the di­rec­tion of the dis­trict, said Lisa Maxwell, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Broward Prin­ci­pals and As­sis­tants As­so­ci­a­tion, which is rep­re­sent­ing them. Nei­ther Run­cie nor a dis­trict spokesman re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment.

Run­cie re­as­signed the ad­min­is­tra­tors, as well as se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist Kevin Green­leaf, a few days af­ter as­sur­ing a com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Park­land mas­sacre that he would hold em­ploy­ees ac­count­able. The dis­trict had been crit­i­cized for fir­ing two low-level se­cu­rity mon­i­tors but not tak­ing any ac­tion against peo­ple in lead­er­ship roles.

A re­cent pre­sen­ta­tion from the Stone­man Dou­glas Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sion found a num­ber of fail­ures at the school, in­clud­ing ig­nored warn­ing signs from stu­dents about killer Niko­las Cruz, un­manned gates, a botched emer­gency lock­down, a fail­ure to cre­ate safe spa­ces in class-

rooms, locked bath­rooms where stu­dents couldn’t en­ter and hide, and over­all in­ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship dur­ing the shoot­ing.

The law­suit blames those prob­lems on Run­cie, say­ing his staff failed to prop­erly train ad­min­is­tra­tors and teach­ers or en­act se­cu­rity poli­cies for them to fol­low. For ex­am­ple, the dis­trict had no pol­icy against lock­ing gates or bath­room doors, nor is there an ac­tive shooter lock­down pol­icy, Maxwell said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tors say they re­moved Cruz from Stone­man Dou­glas a year be­fore the shoot­ing, and they “as­sisted and at­tempted to save lives on Feb. 14,” ac­cord­ing to the suit.

Reed, who was in charge that day be­cause Prin­ci­pal Ty Thomp­son was on va­ca­tion, “ran to­wards (not away) from the shoot­ing and the mur­derer to save lives,” the suit says. She headed to­ward the build­ing where the shoot­ing hap­pened with­out know­ing what was go­ing on and heard gun­shots, Maxwell said.

“She im­me­di­ately grabs ev­ery stu­dent she can get her hands on and pulls 80 stu­dents in the band room,” Maxwell said. “She pro­ceeds to bar­ri­cade the door and puts her body in front of kids to hide them.”

Maxwell said Porter called for an evac­u­a­tion, the wrong pro­ce­dure for an ac­tive shooter, be­cause fire alarm pan­els in­di­cated a gas leak, not gun­fire. He can­celed that af­ter he re­al­ized there was a shoot­ing, Maxwell said. Both Reed and Porter called for a “Code Red” emer­gency lock­down af­ter they re­al­ized there was a shooter.

How­ever, the Stone­man Dou­glas Com­mis­sion con­cluded that se­cu­rity mon­i­tor El­liot Bon­ner was the first to call for a lock­down, and it wasn’t done un­til three min­utes af­ter the shoot­ing started and 24 peo­ple had been shot on the first floor.

Mor­ford was mon­i­tor­ing the se­cu­rity cam­eras dur­ing the mas­sacre, Maxwell said.

Letters sent to the em­ploy­ees don’t say what they are ac­cused of do­ing wrong, only that their ac­tions re­lated to the tragedy are be­ing re­viewed.

That vi­o­lates the dis­trict’s em­ployee dis­ci­pline pol­icy, Maxwell said.

“The pol­icy is very ex­plicit about what the in­ci­dent isn’t and what are the spe­cific al­le­ga­tions,” she said.

The dis­trict’s de­ci­sion to re­move the ad­min­is­tra­tors has led to teacher protests and stu­dent walk­outs this week.

Oth­ers, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies of the vic­tims, praised the dis­trict’s ac­tions against the ad­min­is­tra­tors as long overdue and crit­i­cized the law­suit.

“At­tempts to hin­der this in­ves­ti­ga­tion dis­honor those that died in the tragedy and put the lives of our stu­dents and teach­ers at risk,” said Ryan Petty, whose daugh­ter Alaina was killed.

An­drew Pol­lack, whose daugh­ter Meadow died, added, “It’s a strange thing to watch peo­ple whose ac­tions led to your daugh­ter’s mur­der call the mildest form of ac­count­abil­ity ‘il­le­gal.’”

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