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 Tuesday.
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.”
According to the book, however, the officer who responded told her he had a right to free speech, even though threatening a school shooting is a felony. The officer notified the school resource officer, and a few days later the school sent an email about a “potential threat.”
When Sheriff Scott Israel signed the PROMISE agreement, he declared “we measure our success by the kids we keep out of jail, not by the kids we put in jail.” School-based arrests in Broward County dropped from 1,056 to 392 from 2012 to 2016.
Change may be coming. A Broward County school board candidate seeking to reform the system lost in August 2018, but the Trump administration has put the brakes on the Obama administration’s threat of civil rights investigations for schools that fail to reduce suspensions and expulsions.
“The Parkland school shooting was the most avoidable mass murder in American history, and the policies that made it inevitable have been spread to schools across America,” Mr. Eden said. “Thanks to Trump, the feds are no longer pushing them. But they aren’t going anywhere unless parents wake up and take action.”
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