Florida school board officials want more gun control while student plans to sue them
FLORIDA — After losing 17 students and teachers in a barrage of gunfire, the Broward County school board is livid — and demanding an array of nationwide changes.
Board members passed a 24-point resolution Tuesday, calling for Congress to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks and broaden the perimeters of school gun-free zones.
The proclamation slammed the idea of arming teachers — a topic heavily debated this week in the Legislature.
Superintendent Robert Runcie also wants an immediate, independent review of the social and educational history of Nikolas Cruz — the 19-year-old accused of committing the massacre at his former school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On Tuesday, a grand jury was called to determine whether there is enough evidence to charge Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The superintendent’s proposed investigation would include a review of Cruz’s academic records, interviews with staff members who worked with Cruz, an analysis of any social and emotional help he may have received, and a review of the policies that were in place when he was a student in the school district.
Runcie estimated the investigation would take 10 weeks and cost $60,000. He suggested independent consultants conduct the review, as the complexity may require resources outside Broward County.
Student plans to sue school district
While the school board tried to find ways of preventing future carnage, one of the students wounded in the rampage is planning to sue the school district and local sheriff’s office.
Anthony Borges was shot five times and remains hospitalized, his attorney Alex F. Arreaza said.
Four days after the shooting, Sheriff Scott Israel visited Anthony in the hospital.
Anthony and his family will seek unspecified monetary damages from Broward County, Broward County Public Schools and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Arreaza wrote in a notice of intent to sue.
“The failure of Broward County Public Schools, and of the Principal and School Resource Officer to adequately protect students, and in particular our client, from life-threatening harm were unreasonable, callous and negligent,” Arreaza wrote.
The sheriff’s office has come under criticism because Deputy Scot Peterson, an armed school resource officer, stayed outside the school as the massacre unfolded inside, Israel said.
Peterson has since resigned from the sheriff’s office. His attorney said the sheriff’s account of Peterson’s actions is “at best, gross over-simplification.”
State House debates gun-control bill
In Tallahassee, time is running out for House representatives to vote on Senate Bill 7026 — dubbed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.” The legislative session ends this week.
SB 7026 would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, require a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and ban the sale or possession of bump-fire stocks.
It would give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit and provide additional funding for mental health services and armed school resource officers.
But a key sticking point has been whether to allow teachers to carry guns as part of voluntary program, implemented only if the sheriff’s department and school district agree.
Before the Senate passed legislation Monday, it altered the bill to exclude those who “exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers” from being allowed to carry guns at school.
However, those who teach Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs may be allowed to carry guns, according to the bill. Staff members who are current service members or current or former law enforcement officers would also be able to be armed, the proposal says.
Those staff members who want to be armed must complete 144 hours of training and meet other criteria, which includes 12 hours of diversity training, at the request of Sen. Randolph Bracy. The addition of 12 hours was the only amendment that passed in the Senate.
An amendment to drop the program was denied on Tuesday after intense debate on the House floor. Several representatives spoke out in favor of removing the program. Rep. Larry Lee, a Democrat, said without the program “this would be a perfect bill.”
Rep. Cynthia Stafford, a Democrat, called it a dangerous policy that could disproportionately impact students of color who might be mistaken for shooters.
“I’m worried a black and brown boy running down the hall like anybody else to get to safety reaches in his pocket to pull out his cell phone could be mistaken for shooter.”
On Monday, Gov Rick Scott’s office said he took issue with some aspects of the proposal and “is against arming teachers,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said. He called the amendment to exclude some staff members from being armed as a “step in the right direction.”
On Tuesday, Schenone said Scott stood by his stance that he doesn’t think teachers should be armed. He also expressed concern over the three-day waiting period currently included in the Legislation.
“The governor will make a decision when the final bill reaches his desk.”