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Report: Parkland Shooter Denied Special Needs Care 14 Months Before Shooting

Report: Parkland Shooter Denied Special Needs Care 14 Months Before Shooting

In two instances, “school officials did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws governing students with disabilities”

Following the Parkland shooting that left 17 people dead, the Broward County School District commissioned an independent review.  The review, conducted by the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, found that the shooter was inappropriately denied special needs accommodations at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A Broward County judge ordered public release of the report, entitled “Independent Review of ‘NC’s’ Education Record,” and though much of it was redacted, the Sun Sentinel found that the redacted portions could be read by copying and pasting the text into another document.

The Sun Sentinel reports:

In the year leading up to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killer Nikolas Cruz was stripped of the therapeutic services disabled students need, leaving him to navigate his schooling as a regular student despite mounds of evidence that he wasn’t.

When he asked to return to a special education campus, school officials fumbled his request.

Those conclusions were revealed Friday in a consultant’s report commissioned by the Broward public school system. Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer ordered that the report be released publicly, but with nearly two-thirds of the content blacked out.

The school district said the alterations were needed to comply with the shooter’s privacy rights, but the method the district used to conceal the text failed. The blacked-out text became visible when pasted into another computer file.

The consultant found two specific instances of failure by the school officials.

The Sun Sentinel continues:

Without directly criticizing the schools, the consultant, the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, recommended that the district reconsider how cases like Cruz’s are handled. The recommendations suggest that Cruz could have been offered more help in his final two years in high school, leading up to the Feb. 14 shooting.

Whether that would have changed the outcome is impossible to know.

The consultant found that the district largely followed the laws, providing special education to the shooter starting when he was 3 years old and had already been kicked out of day care. But “two specific instances were identified,” the report says, where school officials did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws governing students with disabilities.

Those instances:

— School officials misstated Cruz’s options when he was faced with being removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School his junior year, leading him to refuse special education services.

— When Cruz asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district “did not follow through,” the report reveals.

The school’s misstatement regarding Cruz’s options resulted in his having no special needs care for over year before his deadly rampage.  Even classified as a general admission student, however, he should have had access to school counseling and related mental health services.

Fox News reports:

School officials misstated Cruz’s options when he was faced with removal from the Florida high school his junior, which led him to refuse special education services, according to the report.

When Cruz was asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district “did not follow through,” the report said.

“Upon entering the room and seeing the Cross Creek representatives, the student immediately became upset and verbally aggressive. He refused to sit at the table, angrily repeating that he would not go back to Cross Creek and that he wanted only to stay at Stoneman. He intended to graduate from the school,” the report said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

. . . Three days after he was forced by the district to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas High, he purchased an AR-15 rifle. Then, a year after his ejection from the school, he returned for the mass shooting.

The district treated him “like a general education student” for his final two years, but even those students should have access to counseling and mental health services, the report said.

The shooter’s attorneys call the report an attempt to “whitewash” the failings of the school and of the school district.

Fox News continues:

But Cruz’s attorneys called the report a “whitewash” commissioned by the district to absolve it of responsibility for its handling of Cruz’s psychological problems, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“I think that the report is an attempt by the school board to absolve itself of any liability or responsibility for all the missed opportunities that they had in this matter,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant public defender.


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The school district had given power over this kid to some small-minded bullies. It happens in schools, a lot.

Turn him loose so he can climb the Statue of Liberty and give a press conference.

JohnSmith100 | August 5, 2018 at 6:36 pm

One of my children is special needs. My experience spanning over twenty years and more than one school district was that they put on a big friendly dog and pony show while systematically violating law. They lie about the law to parents.

In the case of my child, in middle school reading level was still at 1st grade level. The school claimed the child had hit a plateau, I hired a special ed teacher that summer to work with the child 6 hours a week. Reading level jumped a year over the summer. I continued private lessons for three years, seeing a 1.5 year gain each year. At that point the child rapidly increased their reading ability by devouring loarge numbers of books.

This is just one of many examples of how public schools are failing special needs children, and failing quite a large percentage of all the children.

    Matt_SE in reply to JohnSmith100. | August 5, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I would like to say “they pretend to work and the state pretends to pay them,” but the money we’re spending on phony teachers is quite real.

      Tom Servo in reply to Matt_SE. | August 5, 2018 at 6:50 pm

      For parents who honestly care about their children’s education, Home Schooling or Private Schooling is the only responsible option.

      I know of public school districts in Texas – many – where the teachers are good hearted by admit that grades k – 3 or 4 or simply for gaining a working knowledge of the English Language – any kid who comes in already knowing how to speak English will be given decent grades and ignored completely.

    Dathurtz in reply to JohnSmith100. | August 5, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve now worked in 4 schools. I’ve yet to see a special education department that does anything meaningful. They spend a lot of time on paperwork and they are absolutely swamped by what is essentially busywork come testing season. Maybe some good ones are out there, though.

      inspectorudy in reply to Dathurtz. | August 5, 2018 at 10:56 pm

      My daughter worked in the FL special needs program for almost two years but finally resigned. She was actually trying to help the kids in her care but the school was more interested in the paperwork that kept the grant money coming in. Time after time she would be called in for not filling out all of the progress forms but she informed them that there had been no progress for a lot fo the kids. She was issued a warning and told the paperwork came FIRST!

    Antifundamentalist in reply to JohnSmith100. | August 5, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    As an erstwhile special education teacher (Florida, though not Broward County), I can attest that is pretty much right on the money. Not only have I flatly refused to have my two special needs children formerly diagnosed as a result of my experiences, we homeschool. For the record, while there are some useless teachers out there, the big problem is administration. For example, I was dismissed once from an IEP meeting and “counselled” afterwards for pointing contradicting my department head and actually telling the parent the truth about what was going on (they were bullying the parent into putting a child on the Special Diploma track. To stay on the standard track, the kid just needed a few extra resources that the school didn’t want to provide. He also wanted to go active duty military after graduation).

      JusticeDelivered in reply to Antifundamentalist. | August 5, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Boy, I agree most of the problem is administration. Those who can teach, those who cannot teach, usually washed up jocks, become coaches and then administrators.

        Gremlin1974 in reply to JusticeDelivered. | August 6, 2018 at 7:49 am

        Just take a moment and look at what has increased the most with the increased spending on education. (Hint, it isn’t the number of teachers or resources.)

        I think I saw one report that said while Teacher/Student ratios and resources have improved some, however there has been something like a 118% increase in administration.

        Example: Most “School Counselors” while requiring training in counseling are basically no longer allowed to counsel they are expected to be scholarship testing experts, while most schools now actually employ Social Workers and in some cases actual psychologists. I am not bashing school mental health services, but most kids don’t need hard core therapy.

          School Districts are more topheavy than Starfleet. All officers, no crewmen. It’s a serious problem and district administration could be cut by half with no detrimental effects. These people are getting paid 6 figures for in many cases working less than 20 hours a week 8 months a year. Some haven’t accomplished anything recordable in a decade. Meanwhile teachers get crap pay, buy supplies with their own money, and work their asses off until they’re too burned out to care anymore.

      Amen. I assume most people in special education are basically hamstrung by the same things that hamstring everybody who tries to work in this field.

Comanche Voter | August 5, 2018 at 6:41 pm

I may be reading the report wrong. But it suggests that Young Master Cruz would have done better in the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School—where he’d been placed for a few years. But when the District got ready to send him back to Cross Creek he got agitated and refused.

Cruz’s attorneys may claim that the report is a whitewash of the District (which most assuredly, along with the Broward Country sheriff could stand a couple of fresh costs of “white”). But Cruz has to take some personal responsibility for shooting and killing 17 people. It wasn’t the principal or teacher who pulled that trigger.

In the six months since this sad but preventable tragedy, the local newspaper called the Sun Sentinel, has not let a day pass without a front page story related to this shooting. The Democrat papers users the shotting to promote its anti- 2nd Amendment agenda.

My subscription is almost free, but I’m thinking of cancelling it and playing Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” when I call up. Enough.

People continue to send their children to government monopoly public schools. And Florida has many more options than, for example, New York.

Pray that Betsy DeVos succeeds.

Talk about your recipe for disaster – a special needs student who has disciplinary problems (swept under the carpet so the school won’t lose their federal $$$) and an administration who is deaf to the needs of their student – what could go wrong? I hope the parents of the students murdered in this tragedy close the school down and send the administration to jail.

    Don’t forget how the Coward Sheriff and Florida CPS were also responsible for deliberately ignoring the problems surrounding this kid.

Three days after he was forced by the district to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas High, he purchased an AR-15 rifle. Then, a year after his ejection from the school, he returned for the mass shooting.

So, he had this rifle for a year before doing anything dramatic. That’s a long time for everybody to not notice that a kid who’s nuttier than a fruitcake has a rifle.

It sounds like school district officialdom isn’t the only major-league screwup in this story.

    Occasional Thinker in reply to tom_swift. | August 5, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    IIRC, after his mother died he was taken in by the family of a friend. The family notified the sheriff’s office (?, might have been social services) regarding his owning a rifle and not being mentally stable but nothing was done by officialdom.

    forksdad in reply to tom_swift. | August 5, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    Everyone from the FBI to the school district failed. I would be surprised to find an agency that didn’t screw the pooch.

In Tennessee we have what are called “alternative schools” that are designed for kids who have all sorts of emotional issues. When I finally obtained custody of my daughter from her clearly psychotic mother, she was virtually helpless. The year before I got custody, she attended one day of school during the entire year with the rest of her school year spent in the psychiatric hospitals and other similar facilities. During her time in the “alternative school” the change seemed slow while it happened (quite rapid in retrospect), but was nothing short of profound. In the course of two years she went from a basket case who could not even perform the most rudimentary personal hygiene to someone who actually held onto a part time job, did her own laundry, and took all the responsibility for herself that we would expect from a healthy person. I cannot say enough good things about these “alternative schools” for what they offer is nothing short of amazing.
That said, the real pity is how we work hard to create these important and effective resources, but then they are abused by those in positions of power who simply do not care or are not qualified. These kids need all the help they can get and these “alternative schools” offer an amazing service so it is such a shame and utterly shocking to see programs like these misused and mismanaged.

    PaulM in reply to Cleetus. | August 6, 2018 at 9:41 am

    “…it is such a shame and utterly shocking to see programs like these misused and mismanaged.”

    Sadly, the above could be copied and pasted into a discussion of just about any government program that;s existed for any length of time.

But, the NRA.

Is it time to ban government schools?

    Long past time – the government does everything it can to enforce a monopoly in education, especially in the New Democratic Plantations of the inner cities. Yet voters who KNOW the education system is horrible continue to vote in the same progressives that put them in the plantation in the first place.

    Even Wikipedia with its leftist slant admits it: “Charter schools in New York City have consistently outperformed their district school counterparts on an annual basis. Most importantly, those results come in communities where districts schools struggle with combating the achievement gap.”

    And yet Government continues to get in the way.

theduchessofkitty | August 6, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Don’t worry. In the end, the school district and the police department won’t reform themselves one iota, leaving many special needs kids helples. Meanwhile, they are happily looking forward to have a judge and jury to send this kid to the execution chamber, so they can “burn” their problem away.

“No man, no problem”… Right?