Broward schools chief faces Parkland massacre commission
The Broward County school district will reassign three assistant principals and the security specialist from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a presentation that showed communication failures and untimely responses to the shooting that killed 17 and wounded 17 more on Valentine’s Day.
Assistant principals Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter and Denise Reed along with security specialist Kelvin Greenleaf will be reassigned “to other BCPS administrative locations,” according to a district press release sent Monday afternoon.
The press release did not include why the officials were being reassigned but said the decision was made after the latest meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission held two weeks ago. A second-by-second breakdown of law enforcement’s response presented at the meeting shows miscommunication among the administrators regarding surveillance video playback of Nikolas Cruz’s rampage through the freshman building.
Greenleaf and Morford were said to have entered the camera room approximately 7 minutes and 15 seconds after the first shot was fired. They relayed what they saw on video for the next 30 minutes, and at one point mentioned it was a delayed feed, to Porter, who was in charge of security, and former school resource officer Scot Peterson, who later resigned. But no one told police the feed was delayed. The confusion led to law enforcement officers searching for Cruz when he had in fact already fled campus.
Reed was not mentioned in that presentation.
“BCPS is examining material received from the commission to review the response by staff to the tragedy and preceding events,” the press release stated. “Evaluation will also be used to improve school safety and services to students.”
A school district spokeswoman declined further comment.
Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association, met with all three administrators at Stoneman Douglas on Monday. She said they each received a letter from Superintendent Robert Runcie’s office informing them that they were being reassigned to district offices while under an investigation, without disclosing the nature of the accusations.
Maxwell said it’s a due process violation, and vowed to be involved legally and “politically.” She declined to elaborate.
“This is a massive betrayal of confidence, of trust. These people did nothing wrong. There is no evidence that they did, that they violated any policy,” she said. “The evidence actually shows that they put their own lives at risk that day, and that they saved kids. This is beyond despicable.”
Staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were not prepared to deal with a campus shooting, experts testified to the commission. Staffers were confused about who should call a “code red” — which would have placed the school on lockdown — and the school had not practiced a code red drill during the academic year.
“Safe” corners in some classrooms, where students would have been out of Cruz’s line of sight as he fired into rooms from the hallway, were obstructed by furniture. And gates leading onto campus were not staffed when open.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the shooting, said Runcie called victims’ families Monday afternoon to let them know he was taking action.
“It appears that he [Runcie] has at least started the process of holding people to account,” said Petty, who sits on the Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. “The failure to follow school board policy and the inaction [by staff] that day cost several lives.”
But Runcie did not specify what information presented at the commission led him to reassign the Stoneman Douglas staffers.
Petty said two failures jumped out at him during testimony presented to the commission earlier this month. First, school staff opened gates to campus early and left them unmonitored. That violated school board policy, he said.
Second, more than three minutes went by before staffers called a code red alert — which would have locked students down in their classrooms in the freshman building. Instead, because of a blaring fire alarm, students on the third floor streamed out into the hall to meet a hail of Cruz’s bullets. Audible gunshots should have triggered an immediate code red, Petty said.
“School board policies were clearly not followed,” Petty said.
Two school security monitors, Andrew Medina and David Taylor, have been fired by the school district. Medina saw Cruz carrying a rifle bag but did not stop him. Taylor hid in a closet after Cruz opened fire.
Gregory Pittman, an American History teacher and union steward at Stoneman Douglas, said staff received a text message to meet in the auditorium at 2:35 p.m. Valerie Wanza, the district’s chief school performance and accountability officer, gave them the news but did not say why the administrators and safety specialist were being “temporarily moved” to other sites.
“We are very upset,” Pittman said. “If we could all go on strike tomorrow, we would.”
Pittman said the staffers were told of their fates just before Wanza met with the teachers. He said one had tears, another was red-faced and one was in shock.
“[They’re] taking away people that know us, know the students, know the school and know what we’ve been through,” he said, questioning who would replace them. “How are they going to evaluate us? How do they know anything?”