Lack of oversight and follow-through with funding are among new details in the “catastrophic failure” by the Broward County School District to protect its students after a Feb. 14 shooting left 17 dead and many wounded.
The Daily Signalinterviewed Kenneth Preston, a student journalist who attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla., after he brought to light additional financial failings by the school district through extensive and exhaustive research.
Preston explained to interviewer Daniel Davis that his three-month investigation revealed two faults by the county. The school system was granted $100 million by a bond appropriation by county residents. Preston found 5 percent ($5 million) had been spent over a few years.
“One of the things is single point of entry, which at any given school they were trying to install a perimeter where there would be only one entry point for the school,” he explained.
The second, more damning point to school safety, was the delayed fire alarm system the school district had discussed installing but never did.
“Fire alarm systems aren’t going to do anything in a school shooting, until I realized years ago our former director of school safety basically told our school district ‘Hey, we would like for you to implement a new system where there is a delay on the fire alarm.’ Basically, in order for the fire alarm to go off, the office first can determine if it’s an actual fire, if it’s a prank or if, in this case, it’s gun smoke,” Preston said.
The Hill’s Alice B. Lloyd reported in-depth on April 13 the failings of the bureaucracy regarding Preston’s findings. She found, “Foot-dragging like this isn’t out of the ordinary for Broward, but the county’s sluggish operations take on new meaning with a nationally resonant tragedy. At a school in Palm Beach County, where county-level operations tend to run on time … they’d probably have had that state-of-the-art alarm system already.”
To add to the already difficult situation, Preston asserted that Superintendent Robert Runcie’s administration may have purposely turned students over to “rehabilitation programs,” rather than allow law enforcement officers to arrest them on misdemeanor or even felony charges by changing reported data to procure Department of Education (DOE) grant funding.
“Basically, [the school district] felt that too many minorities were being arrested in relation to the number of whites being arrested, and they decided that we had to change that. So rather than having rehabilitation programs and figuring out other intervention programs, what they did is … stopped reporting crime. They had students who were troubled, and previously would have been reported to law enforcement, are now going into these quote-unquote rehabilitation programs,” said Preston.
Further explaining, Davis stated to the audience the aforementioned program was one pushed by the Obama administration. The programs, according to Preston, were essentially shortened in-school suspensions that students took advantage of to avoid arrest for serious crimes.
“Those federal guidelines … they said it was a race to the top grant fund. Districts could apply for additional federal funding, and what Arne Duncan and the DOE said was sure you can have that federal funding, but if you have a disproportionate minority arrest rate, you have to alter your discipline,” he said.
The startling revelation is made somewhat worse, as Runcie served as the former deputy to Arne Duncan in the Chicago school system. Duncan served as the U.S. Secretary of Education, appointed by former-President Barack Obama, from 2009 to 2015.
Click here to listen to Preston’s interview with The Daily Signal.