On Valentine’s Day this year, gunman Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with an assault rifle — and went on a rampage. Seventeen students and teachers lost their lives that day, and another 17 were injured in the attack.
Since then, many of the survivors have become activists for anti-gun groups, and have even started their own campaigns for stricter gun control laws. They also brought a lawsuit against the school district and the sheriff’s office for not protecting them during the slaughter, according to the Hill.
However, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that neither Broward County schools — nor the sheriff’s office — can be held liable for the lives lost, the injuries suffered, or the trauma experienced by survivors. U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom tossed out the lawsuit brought by 15 of the students, arguing that the school district and sheriff’s office were not legally responsible to keep them safe.
According to Bloom’s ruling, neither party is “constitutionally obligated to protect students who were not in custody.”
“The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor,” she wrote in the ruling last week. “Thus, the critical question the Court analyzes is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz. As previously stated, for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody.”
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by 15 Parkland shooting survivors, rejecting their argument that authorities' failure to prevent the shooting violated their 14th Amendment rights to due process https://t.co/3FCGB0WTTJ pic.twitter.com/vrmNZvAH4z
— CNN (@CNN) December 18, 2018
One of the defendants in the defeated lawsuit was Scot Peterson, the only armed deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when Cruz started shooting inside the premises. Shortly after the shooting, Peterson resigned from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, as he faced massive backlash from the public for not having done more to protect students during the attack.
“His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatized,” the lawsuit had claimed of Peterson.
The students who brought the lawsuit argued that the defendants either “have a policy that allows killers to walk through a school killing people without being stopped,” or have “such inadequate training that the individuals tasked with carrying out the policies… lack the basic fundamental understandings of what those policies are such that they are incapable of carrying them out.”
Bloom’s ruling came just a week after Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning rejected Peterson’s argument that he had “no legal duty” to intervene during the horrific shooting, stating instead that he had an “obligation to act reasonably” during the incident.