Op-Ed

I teach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and I have a message: We’re still broken

Student Tyra Heman holds a sign calling for gun reforms.
Student Tyra Heman holds a sign calling for gun reforms. Getty Images

I’m a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Although almost 10 months have passed since the Feb. 14 shooting, we are still broken, and we are still trying to heal.

All of us who are part of the MSD family are still trying to figure out how to navigate through our grief. This week, Superintendent Robert Runcie and his team at the Broward County School District made that process even harder — they have ripped four more members from us. It’s a transparent attempt to place blame where it does not belong, rather than holding accountable the people who truly bear some responsibility.

To appease a vocal minority, Runcie determined that four members of our family, who did nothing wrong and, in fact, did everything they possibly could to protect students and staff on Valentine’s Day, would be “temporarily reassigned.”

We were told by a district representative — not Runcie — that this is not a punishment, but we all know that isn’t true. The district needs to look as though it is holding someone responsible. But any shortcomings that occurred at the school level were not the fault of the administration or the security team; rather, they were a direct result of the lax culture created by the school district.

The case of Andrew Medina is one example of district failure. Medina, one of the two members of the school’s security team fired in the wake of the shooting, was disciplined last year for sexually harassing two students (one of whom was Meadow Pollock, a victim of the shooting); a disciplinary committee recommended that he be fired, but according to a Sun Sentinel article from June 18, “Robert Runcie, or his designee, overruled the committee’s recommendation to fire Medina and reduced the discipline to a three-day suspension.”

In other words, a grown man sexually harassed two underage girls, and Runcie decided that he should be put back into the school where the harassment occurred. Medina finally was fired because he failed to confront the shooter or call a lockdown on Feb. 14, but had it not been for Runcie he would have been gone long before that.

In the recent meetings of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, it was reported that, at some point, students had shared concerns about the shooter with administrators, but those concerns were dismissed. It would have been inappropriate (and a violation of privacy laws) for administrators to share information about student discipline with other students, but that doesn’t mean that nothing was being done. Clearly, administration was aware of the issues and was doing what it could to deal with them. The shooter was eventually expelled from the school as the result of his threatening behavior. What more could administration have done?

Runcie says that he cares about the students of Broward County and about the teachers employed by the district. However, the students have received little emotional support, despite the fact that they suffered unspeakable tragedy on his watch and as the result of his failed policies. They are getting minimal on-campus counseling, and in order to seek counseling outside of what is provided by the district they must use their own health insurance or pay for it out of pocket. As for teachers, the Stoneman Douglas Alumni Association has provided more opportunities for emotional healing than the district has — just one more example of district failure.

Although hindsight is 20-20 and we may always wonder what could have been done differently, the events of Feb.14 are the fault of only one person: the shooter.

To blame people who did their best in an impossible situation not only is unfair but also a reflection of everything that is wrong within the district.

Katherine Posada is an English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

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