Vic­tim’s father: Park­land shoot­ing ‘avoid­able’ De­scribes school dis­trict’s lax dis­ci­plinary ap­proach taken against gun­man

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

An­drew Pol­lack lost his 18-year-old daugh­ter, Meadow, in the mass shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida, but he has of­fered to tes­tify at the con­fessed gun­man’s trial — on be­half of the de­fense.

Why? Mr. Pol­lack is con­vinced that the shoot­ing would never have hap­pened but for the ul­tra-woke dis­ci­plinary ap­proach that al­lowed 19-year-old Niko­las Cruz to buy an AR-15: He had no crim­i­nal record, de­spite 45 vis­its by Broward County sher­iff’s deputies to his home.

What’s more, the school dis­trict ac­tu­ally gave him free shoot­ing lessons by en­rolling him in JROTC, de­spite his “emo­tional and be­hav­ioral dis­abil­ity” and his­tory of vi­o­lence, sex­ual mis­con­duct, threats, self-mu­ti­la­tion, prop­erty de­struc­tion and an­i­mal cru­elty, and an ob­ses­sion with firearms and killing peo­ple.

“The Park­land school shoot­ing was the most avoid­able mass mur­der in Amer­i­can his­tory,” Mr. Pol­lack says in the in­tro­duc­tion to “Why Meadow Died: The Peo­ple and Poli­cies that Cre­ated the Park­land Shooter and En­dan­ger Amer­ica’s Stu­dents,” which was re­leased last week.

Niko­las Cruz “was never go­ing to be a model cit­i­zen, but it truly took a vil­lage to raise him into a school shooter,” Mr. Pol­lack writes. “I can’t even say he killed my daugh­ter. They killed my daugh­ter.”

Mr. Pol­lack teamed up with Manhattan In­sti­tute se­nior fel­low Max Eden to write the book af­ter the Feb. 14, 2018, mas­sacre that left 17 stu­dents and fac­ulty dead.

To­gether, they paint a damn­ing pic­ture of a dis­ci­plinary ap­proach em­braced by the Broward County Public Schools, mod­eled on poli­cies pushed by social jus­tice groups and fed­eral agen­cies, start­ing with the fed­eral De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s Of­fice for Civil Rights dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The au­thors also de­scribe the pol­i­tics in­volved in try­ing to change the system. Those calling for ac­count­abil­ity by the school dis­trict wound up be­ing la­beled as pro-NRA or racist for fo­cus­ing on is­sues other than firearms, as stu­dents like David Hogg and Emma Gon­za­lez be­came na­tional gun-con­trol celebri­ties.

“It shouldn’t have had to fall to a father of a vic­tim to find an­swers. But the me­dia seemed more in­ter­ested in at­tack­ing than in­ves­ti­gat­ing any­thing that wasn’t about gun con­trol,” Mr. Eden said.

The dis­trict’s pol­icy of plac­ing “dis­abled” stu­dents like Cruz in the least re­stric­tive aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment re­sulted in him be­ing moved in Jan­uary 2016 from a spe­cial school for stu­dents with ex­treme be­hav­ioral prob­lems to Stone­man Dou­glas, where ad­min­is­tra­tors were ill-equipped to han­dle him.

Once there, Broward’s push to help stu­dents avoid the “school­house-to-jail­house pipe­line” by min­i­miz­ing sus­pen­sions, ex­pul­sions and ar­rests al­lowed the fu­ture school shooter to skate time and again af­ter in­frac­tions that would have got­ten him kicked out or jailed in ear­lier decades.

Sur­pris­ingly, the PROM­ISE pro­gram, which re­ceived enor­mous at­ten­tion af­ter the shoot­ing, barely fig­ures into the shooter’s story. While Cruz was re­ferred to the pro­gram in mid­dle school, he never at­tended, and the dis­trict failed to fol­low up on his ab­sence.

The au­thors re­count ex­am­ple af­ter ex­am­ple of the dis­turb­ing be­hav­ior of the fu­ture shooter, or “18-1958,” as Mr. Pol­lack calls him, re­fer­ring to his case num­ber, as well as a “what if” list of 42 things that could have de­railed the shoot­ing.

For ex­am­ple, in Septem­ber 2016, Cruz at­tacked a boy dat­ing Cruz’s ex-girl­friend and called him the “N-word.” Five stu­dents told an as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal af­ter­ward that Cruz threat­ened to kill peo­ple and brought weapons to school. The school re­sponded by giv­ing Cruz a two-day in­ter­nal sus­pen­sion and ban­ning him from bring­ing a back­pack to school.

The other boy? He re­ceived a more se­ri­ous pun­ish­ment, a one-day out-of-school sus­pen­sion.

A month af­ter Cruz was en­rolled at Stone­man Dou­glas in Jan­uary 2016, the Broward County sher­iff’s of­fice re­ceived a call from a woman re­port­ing an Instagram post in which he said, “I am go­ing to get this gun and shoot up the school.”

Pol­lack

Cruz

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