WASHINGTON—Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Tuesday telling her about serious allegations that arose at the Broward County School Board meeting last week about the school discipline reform program touted by the county’s superintendent Robert Runcie.
Rubio cited his concerns about the county, which includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—the site of February’s deadly school shooting, that he wants her department to review and verify.
Rubio also inquired about reports that the Broward County School Board had access to $100 million for school safety upgrades but less than five percent had been spent and asked about the favorable treatment given to school districts with discipline policies that dissuaded schools from reporting specific violent acts by students to law enforcement, when it was time to determine which districts received education grants from the department.
Other issues Rubio wants DeVos to review are reports that School Resource Officers were “directed to not arrest students for specific felonies and claims that Broward schools were intentionally classifying violent acts and felonies as non-violent acts or misdemeanors in order to prevent a referral to law enforcement.”
Students, teachers, and parents loudly criticized Superintendent Runcie and the rest of the Broward School Board last Wednesday asking why students like accused Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz fell through the cracks of their school discipline reform system, though.
One student from Coral Springs High School, Riley Lassiter, asked the board why other schools in the county were being ignored for security upgrades following the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
She recounted a former student brought a loaded handgun to school and even wrote a 10-page manifesto threatening students, but the school district never reacted.
Runcie responded that the school board is doing a security threat assessment of the entire district and questions as to whether Cruz was part of the school’s Behavioral Intervention Program will be answered at another date.
The Broward County School discipline reform program, crafted by Runcie, served as the model for other school districts around the country to follow during the Obama administration. Runcie previously served in the Chicago Department of Education under Arne Duncan, who went on to serve as President Obama’s Sec. of Education. The policy is now under review by DeVos since reports of rising violence in schools against teachers and students in relation to discipline.