Broward County

Schools chief on safety: We need to focus on mental health, spotting people ‘in distress’

Trauma helicopter lands at North Spring Park

Video shared on Twitter by @Grumpyhaus shows a trauma helicopter landing at North Spring Park in Broward after reports of a school shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.
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Video shared on Twitter by @Grumpyhaus shows a trauma helicopter landing at North Spring Park in Broward after reports of a school shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

Hours after a shooting inside a high school, Broward’s school chief said safety measures are vital but that mental health issues must be addressed nationwide in response to gun violence.

“We cannot live in a world that is built on fear,” Robert Runcie, Broward superintendent of schools, told reporters Wednesday. “We have to do what we can to make sure we provide the greatest safety measures we can for our kids.

“But what I’ll tell you is: Mental health issues in this country are growing. And they’re a big challenge,” he continued. “And they’re something that is certainly going to need to be addressed within our school systems, as well as in the broader society — to ensure that these kind of tragedies do not continue.

Students were evacuated by law enforcement in response to reports of an active shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Law enforcement from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Hallandale Beach Police Departmen

“We’ve got to be able to recognize individuals that are in distress, that have challenges,” he said. “And be able to find ways to support them.”

Runcie also told reporters there had been no indication of any potential threat by any of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland before Wednesday’s shooting. Seventeen were killed, and 15 wounded.

“We’ve received no warning, no indication, but there’s going to be a thorough investigation,” he said. “You see typically in these situations there were potentially signs out there. I would be speculating at this point if there were. But we didn’t have any warning, we didn’t have any threats or phone calls that were made.”

Math teacher Jim Gard, however, told the Herald that the school’s staff had been warned last year about threatening behavior by Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old former student who is a suspect in the shooting. Cruz is in custody of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Runcie’s comments came as national attention descended on Broward, grappling with another incident of gunfire erupting in the middle of a school day. Runcie said Marjory Stoneman Douglas High had standard security measures in place for potential violence, and that there were no advanced signs such as threatening calls before the shooting began.

Video allegedly shows the scene from the shooting inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

“Every high school in this county has police presence at the high school,” he said. “There were officers on the school site at all times. There are typically at least two cars of law enforcement individuals on our campuses on a daily basis. They’re called school resource officers.”

He said news of the shooting reached him on the heels of an event honoring one of the school system’s brightest.

“Today has been a day of enormous mountains and valleys,” he said. “I was leaving Monarch High School, where we were giving the teacher of the year keys to a brand new Toyota Camry. We were celebrating our teachers, our schools.

Video shared on Twitter by @Grumpyhaus shows a trauma helicopter landing at North Spring Park in Broward after reports of a school shooting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018.

“As I’m driving back to the office, I start seeing communication and I hear from staff we may have a tragedy on our hands,” he continued. “So I literally came from giving the teacher of the year a car and celebrating our teachers and our district to where I am right now.”

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