As parents and the public puzzle over why the Broward School District is trying so hard to hold onto evidence to help investigators look into the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School, the Sun Sentinel provides some insight.
It appears that the school district, in an effort to improve its PR, implemented questionable and lenient protocol that allowed Cruz to skate by, even though he was causing problems time and time again. In fact, Cruz was suspended at least 67 days over less than a year and a half while he attended Westglades Middle School. His behavior did not improve as he entered high school, and he was eventually told to leave.
Some of the methods that were put in place included allowing students to be punished as first-time offenders even if they were repeat offenders. The idea is that having less suspensions, expulsions, and arrests gives the district inflated statistics for its students, making the schools appear to be performing better than they actually are.
In particular, the “Promise program” helps students avoid criminal charges and turns them into misdemeanor charges, which has come under extreme scrutiny due to Cruz’s participation in the program. The superintendent initially denied that Cruz was in the program, but the district later confirmed that he was a part of Promise.
Apparently, Cruz was sent to the Promise program for three days due to vandalizing a restroom. Cruz did not complete the three days there, and no one has been told why yet. He was then sent to a special school that serves students with “severe emotional and behavioral disorders.”
One retired teacher from the district worked there for 37 years. Mary Fitzgerald recounts times when students brought knives to school; one student was suspended for a day and another for just five days.
The district created a lenient culture, and it is apparently known to everyone. Someone noted that “the message out there is that the students are untouchable. Habitual negative behavior means nothing anymore,” according to Faculty Council meeting minutes from February 2015.
This is evident when reviewing Cruz’s incident history from middle school which includes infractions from profanity and fighting to “false alarm/911.” He’s also had consistent problems with disruptive behavior and verbal threats. Some of the incidents occurred on consecutive days. Even though Cruz was consistently causing problems, he never got in trouble with the law, only through the school. His punishments were out-of-school or in-school suspensions for the most part.