Could accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz have slipped through the cracks of the Broward County school system because of a developmental disability he has? Months after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took the lives of 17 students and faculty members, questions remain about why obvious signs of the alleged gunman’s activities prior the deadly day were ignored.
Despite multiple red flags that were raised about Cruz’s violent behavior from the time he was in middle school in November 2013 up through the beginning of 2018, school officials bounced him between mainstream schools and alternative educational facilities that provided him with therapy services.
Cruz, according to a report by WLRN, was as diagnosed with a developmental delay as a small child and during a radio interview last month, Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie last talked about the difficulties when it came to the legal aspect of discipline procedures and students with disabilities.
Federal law mandates that school officials, WLRN notes, to review whether a student’s misconduct is a result of a disability. If that is what is concluded, the school cannot punish the behavior but must give assistance for the student with the disability instead.
“Because there’s been so much speculation about what [Cruz] may or may not have done, or what the district should have or should not have done, we’ve asked for an independent review by experts in the field to review his entire academic record and his experience within Broward County,” Runcie said, adding that the report will be available to the public in June.
Back in March, the Associated Press reported local Florida officials once suggested they wanted Cruz forcibly committed to a mental institution via Florida’s Baker Act two years before the Stoneman Douglas massacre, but their advice was never heeded.
According to documents obtained by the AP, Cruz’ cut surfacing from cut himself with a pencil sharpener and told a fellow student he wanted to buy a firearm. Cruz also told another student he had drank gasoline and later vomited. He also drew a Nazi symbol on his book bag and wrote, “I hate n—–s.”
NBC News reported on Feb. 19 that Cruz announced that he wanted to buy a gun and despite Broward County mental health professionals being aware of Cruz, it is unknown why some type of intervention was not taken, but a report from the Florida Department of Children and Families appeared to show medical neglect.
“[Cruz’s] clinician from Henderson mental health has stated that there are no issues with [Cruz’s] medication and he has been compliant with taking his medication and keeps all of his appointments,” the report said.
A staffer from Henderson visited Cruz, a school counselor later revealed to the Florida Department of Children and Families investigators, and “found him to be stable enough [to] not be hospitalized.”
Nevertheless, the school counselor was suspicious about the department’s decision and wanted to “ensure that the assessment of Henderson was not premature.”
The Florida Department of Children and Families investigation, however, stuck with its decision and closed the case “with no indicators to support the allegations of inadequate supervision or medical neglect.”
The Miami Herald noted, Cruz was previously seeing a school psychiatrist in 2014 and his therapist’s psychiatric file on him “reported [a dream] last week of him killing people and covered in blood. He smiled and told the therapist that sometimes he says things for shock value.” Additionally, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel had previously stated that in the past few years his office had received around 20 calls about Cruz.