What’s being done to stop shootings?
10 months after the Parkland school massacre, Broward County students still exposed to potential danger
Once he decided to shoot up a school, there wasn’t much to stop Nikolas Cruz.
His threats were ignored, the campus was wide open, the school doors were unlocked and students had nowhere to hide.
What has changed? Though 10 months have passed since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County students are still exposed to potential danger. At least a quarter of campuses don’t have single-entry points to control intruders. Safe spaces to protect children in classrooms still haven’t been identified. There’s no policy outlining how to respond to an active shooter.
Even seemingly simple things — like making sure each classroom has a place where students can hide from bullets — have not been done.
The district points to some major security enhancements, including $6.2 million in new
security cameras, $4.5 million for portable radios and $17 million for upgrades to intercom systems.
But some projects that are underway — like making sure an intruder can’t walk into an unlocked school and shoot people — are already behind schedule.
Here’s a look at critical failures that led to the murders of 17 staff and students, and the status of remedies to keep such a tragedy from happening again.
Breaching the campus
Nikolas Cruz wasn’t welcome at the high school. He was known by former classmates and even some administrators as a potential school shooter. And still he walked right onto campus.
The intrusion led to calls for locked gates, locked doors, mandatory ID cards, see-through backpacks and metal detectors. Some of that is moving forward for all Broward schools. Some, like clear backpacks and metal detectors, were nixed early on.
The Stoneman Douglas campus has a single-pointof-entry system, which requires visitors to go through the front office to get on campus. Locked gates block people from entering elsewhere. That system failed, though, because the gates were left open.
Although there have been periodic complaints of gates at Stoneman Douglas still remaining open at times, they were all secure when a South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter arrived on a recent school day. Only one gate leading to the front office was open, and visitors had to first check in with a security monitor on a golf cart.
But more than a quarter of Broward County’s 238 public schools still aren’t capable of funneling guests through one entry point. On some campuses, a stranger could roam and might be able to walk into a building when a door opens.
Coral Springs High has been waiting since the 1990s for the district to make good on its promise of a closed campus. Even after a former student walked onto school grounds with a loaded gun in October 2016, the fence wasn’t installed.
These issues were supposed to be fixed as part of an $800 million bond referendum passed by Broward County voters in 2014. After the Stoneman Douglas shooting, Superintendent Robert Runcie said he would expedite the singlepoint-of-entry retrofits, and all campuses would be secure by early 2019.
That’s not going to happen, district officials now say. Most are expected to be completed by March, but about two dozen will be delayed until later in the year or 2020, construction officials told the school board on Dec. 11.
Some children died at Stoneman Douglas because they had nowhere to hide.
The district had not mandated safe areas known as “hard corners” — spots that a gunman shooting through a doorway would not see. As a result, those possible safety zones were not marked or were blocked by desks, bookcases or other obstacles.
The school district has yet to fix the problem, which baffles many.
“Is there any reason why tomorrow there’s not a hard corner in every classroom in every school in the district?” asked James Harpring, undersheriff for the Indian River Sheriff’s Office and a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. “A hard corner is immediate, doesn’t cost anything, and is an immediate lifesaving action that can take place.”
Said Andy Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was killed in the shooting: “They can’t figure out how to put a piece of tape across the corner of the room? It’s ridiculous.”
Runcie said he does not want to wait until they have a “perfect” policy and will begin implementing the change after the winter break and make adjustments Coral Springs police are on duty at Coral Springs High School. The school has waited for years for single point of entry, which limits access to the front office.