“Stunning” Report: Parkland Superintendent Misled Public About Shooter’s Past

May 9, 2018

by Karen R. Effrem, MD


Despite statements to the contrary by Broward County, Fla., Superintendent Robert Runcie and Sheriff Scott Israel, it has now been reported by WLRN that the Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had in fact been involved in the controversial PROMISE school discipline program. PROMISE, launched in 2013, stands for Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports and Education.

Runcie had stated in April, “Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.” Yet, according to an admission by Broward district officials this past Sunday, Cruz did in fact receive a “referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.”

Aside from calling the premeditated attack that killed seventeen people an “accident,” this revelation is disturbing on a number of levels. It is especially so to victims and survivors of the shooting. Ryan Petty, the father of one student who was killed during the shooting rampage, tweeted the following:

Petty’s third tweet is in keeping with research by Max Eden and others like Dr. Susan Berry as to how unsafe schools have become under programs like PROMISE and the “guidance” from the Obama administration that threatened and pursued long, expensive civil rights investigations that in turn created perverse incentives, resulting in drastically increased numbers of violent incidents.

This revelation also comes after some of the survivors have announced their intention to sue the school district and sheriff’s office for negligence related to their handling of the massacre, the lack of safety in Broward schools due to the PROMISE program, and the failure to act on the many violent and threatening incidents involving Cruz. At a news conference, an attorney speaking for freshman Anthony Borges, who was shot five times while trying to protect fellow students and was the last of the victims to leave the hospital, said:

You failed us students, teachers and parents alike on so many levels… I want to ask you today to please end your policy and agreement that you will not arrest people committing crimes in our schools.

Cruz was also reported to have made numerous death threats to various Marjory Stoneman Douglas students that were reported to school officials and repeatedly ignored. Making death threats is a felony and was way beyond the list of thirteen misdemeanors allowed under the PROMISE program. That Cruz was not arrested after these threats was another deadly failure of Runcie and Israel. All of the other red flags aside, if these threats had been properly handled, there would have been a felony arrest record that should have prevented the purchase of the gun used in the massacre.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this situation is the fact that Runcie — who has now been caught misleading the students, families and staff of Broward as well as the public and legislators — is now leading the Florida Association of District School Superintendents (FADSS), a key organization promoting the expansion of inaccurate student mental screening in the Sunshine State. This screening has a very high false positive rate, which will lead to the wasting of scarce resources and potentially incorrect treatment that may include psychiatric drugs that have many harmful, if not fatal, side effects. Among those side effects are new or worsening aggression and violence, as well as suicide, the very problems that screening and school-based mental health programs are supposed to treat.

Given his deception and lack of transparency, as well as the failure to properly handle all of the shooter’s mental and criminal red flags, Runcie is the last person that should be in charge of this organization and this mental health effort.  Hopefully, the state and federal commissions investigating the Parkland massacre, as well as the civil court system, will hold him accountable, bring some relief and justice to the victims and families of this senseless tragedy, and prevent these harmful mental screening programs from expanding.


Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.

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