Education

‘Crying the whole time’: Principal at time of Parkland shooting announces resignation

A message from the principal at Stoneman Douglas High

Ty Thompson, principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, has a message for students of his school. "I promise you I will hug each and every one of you as many times as you need."
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Ty Thompson, principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, has a message for students of his school. "I promise you I will hug each and every one of you as many times as you need."

In a tearful address to his faculty, the principal who oversaw Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at the time of the worst school shooting in Florida history, announced his resignation Friday afternoon.

Citing difficulty with the “pace” of his job amid heightened stress and an internal investigation, Principal Ty Thompson told stunned teachers in the school’s auditorium that he would leave his post when the school year finishes in June. He issued a statement to the families of MSD students and sent out a robo-call to parents.

Thompson is under investigation by Broward County Public Schools, and his duties were reassigned to other administrators in March. He was the principal at the Parkland school during the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting that killed 17 students and faculty members and injured another 17 victims.

“Advisors and fellow colleagues always said take care of yourself,” he said in the statement, which he read to faculty. “If at any point you feel like it is affecting your family or your health you need to make a change. That time has come. I wanted to stay and see this through but I just can’t continue at this pace.”

Two teachers at the school confirmed he addressed them at an all-faculty meeting Friday afternoon.

“He was crying the whole time,” said history teacher Greg Pittman. “I think that you could tell the stress was getting to him.”

Pittman said the faculty had been expecting Thompson to resign, but they were nevertheless surprised to hear the news Friday. The shooting — and the pressure it brought to the school and the county — crushed Thompson, who was known among students as an otherwise spirited leader, Pittman said.

“You know he was under a lot of pressure,” he said. “He seemed just a little more quiet and reserved.”

Pittman said he feared Thompson’s health was foundering under the pressure.

“He said he was stepping down because it was impacting his health,” he said.

The Broward Schools investigation of the circumstances leading up to the shooting, to include the actions of Thompson and three assistant principals, is expected to be finished at the end of the school year.

In an explanation to Thompson, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie cited sections from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission report. They stated Thompson was responsible for securing the campus gates at the time of the shooting, ensuring his administrators were trained to conduct threat assessments at the school and failing to have a code-red procedure, according to Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association.

In his statement, Thompson said many had asked him over the last 15 months how he could “stay so strong.”

“It’s been challenging,” he said, “but I always remained as positive as possible and did what I felt was in the best interest of the students and staff.”

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting, said Thompson’s resignation “doesn’t mean anything” to make Broward’s schools safer because Runcie remains in office.

“Runcie is still there with his people,” Pollack said. “The school board is still there. All the policies are still in place.”

The Broward School Board voted 6-3 in March to keep Runcie in his position.

Pollack and other parents of Parkland victims have targeted the school district’s controversial diversion program, which aims to reduce student expulsions and arrests for certain offenses, like assault and drug possession. The Promise program has come under attack from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Lauderhill Police.

Pollack said the program, in which the Parkland shooter had been enrolled, allowed “sociopaths” to stay in Broward’s schools despite previous behavior.

“Him leaving doesn’t change anything for the county,” Pollack said.

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