Nikolas Cruz, who murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, took part in a controversial Broward discipline program despite reassurances that he had “no connection” to it.

The PROMISE program allows students to attend an alternative school “to avoid getting involved with the criminal justice system” if they “commit certain misdemeanors.” The program has a list of 13 misdemeanors that qualify.

From WJCT:

Two sources with knowledge of Cruz’s discipline records told WLRN he was referred to the so-called PROMISE Program for a three-day stint after committing vandalism at Westglades Middle School in 2013.

When asked for a response, a spokeswoman for Superintendent Robert Runcie stated on Friday that district administrators were aggressively analyzing Cruz’s records. Then Tracy Clark said on Sunday afternoon the district had “confirmed” Cruz’s referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.

However, it’s unclear if Cruz ever attended the program.

Cruz attended the “Pine Ridge Education center in Fort Lauderdale – an alternative school facility where PROMISE is housed – for an intake interview the day after the vandalism incident. Clark said it looks like Cruz did not complete “the recommended three-day assignment/placement” and refused to “speculate” why.

One of the injured survivors of the shooting “is planning a lawsuit that will argue the program led school leaders to demonstrate a lax attitude toward discipline.”

The superintendent and officials keep defending the program:

Runcie and school board members remain steadfastly committed to PROMISE, which was designed to limit the “school to prison pipeline” at a time when more kids were getting arrested in Broward schools than any other district in the state. The administrators have worked to combat what they argue is a politically motivated attack based on “misinformation” and “fake news.”

In his defense of the program, Runcie has touted its high success rate in preventing recidivism: Nearly 9 out of 10 kids who go to PROMISE don’t commit another offense at school that would send them back there.

Brittany Shammas at the Miami New Times bashed Rubio in March for pushing the supposed “bogus claim” that the school’s disciplinary policies led to the shooting. Granted, she argued this point because Runcie insisted Cruz had absolutely no connection to the PROMISE program:

“Basically, people are trying to exploit an incident for whatever varied agendas they have,” Runcie says.

Runcie says Rubio was not “properly advised” before his speech and calls reports casting blame on the district’s policies erroneous and irresponsible and says they’ve fueled online conspiracy theories such as one claiming the superintendent is being paid off by former President Barack Obama.

“We have a program that actually is helping students and is successful, regardless of whether some may like the program or not,” Runcie says.

Runcie constantly blasted the “fake news” reports of the PROMISE program. From WJCT:

“Let me reiterate this point,” Runcie started off during an interview in his office last month. “Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.”

During the same conversation, Runcie said: “I’m not going to allow a shift from what our focus needs to be to a fictitious narrative that’s being made up about a successful program that we have in Broward County that has no connection to the shooter or the situation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Over at SunshineStateNews.com, Ryan Nichol pointed out that Cruz “may be proof one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel” because of his pattern of behavior (emphasis mine):

Reports of fighting and and assault are vague and may have only qualified as misdemeanors. But according to Buzzfeed, Cruz was also accused of cyberstalking and sending threatening messages online and in person while he was a student at Stoneman Douglas. These could have resulted in felony charges under federal law.

The PROMISE program purportedly treats felonies and other acts that “pose a serious threat to school safety” differently. But even in those situations, the program does not mandate a student be arrested. Instead, an officer may consider placing the student under arrest. That is, the officer may also decide not to put the student under arrest, even in the event of a felony.

Here is a major failing of the system: Had Cruz been adjudicated even in juvenile court for a felony, he would have been prohibited from owning a firearm until he was 24 years of age. Even a misdemeanor hearing could have resulted in a court mandating mental health counseling, which could also force Cruz to give up his weapons. And obviously, if he was sitting in a prison cell, he would have been prevented from carrying out the deadly shooting at his former high school.

These officials will not stop pointing fingers at others instead of looking in the mirror. So many opportunities presented themselves to the school and authorities that could have prevented Cruz from buying weapons. Rubio made this point on March 13:

Yes, there are many kids who do one bad thing, realize what they did and do not do it again. But for years, Cruz had a pattern of behavior that showed he wasn’t going to change and as he got older, and the behavior became worse.