September 13, 2019

The Makings of a School Shooter

The father of a Parkland victim recounts what happened to allow a dangerous young man in school.

More than a year after an expelled student opened fire on unsuspecting classmates and staff in a Florida high school, questions remain unanswered. Ever since the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, an ardently anti-Second Amendment media has focused on a few like-minded teenage “survivors” (one in particular who might not have even been at school that day) turned gun-control advocates instead of the victims and their families. As a result, no one has asked the hard questions — such as why schools continue to fail to protect their students and teachers, and how school boards and administrators may actually be putting our children at risk.

Max Eden and Andrew Pollack (whose own daughter was killed in the shooting) have co-authored a book entitled Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students. The book spells out in chilling detail how school officials turned a blind eye to behavior that should have spurred them to action many times over.

Let’s be clear: The adolescent murderer of 17 innocent people didn’t snap in a moment of rage. And nothing he did on that fateful day surprised anyone who knew him. In fact, it’s likely that many were surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

Eden and Pollack write at The New York Post, “[His] records suggest that his reign of terror at Westglades Middle School began halfway through his seventh-grade year, in February of 2013. For the next calendar year, [he] was suspended every other day. Why did the school allow him to remain enrolled despite his daily, deranged behavior for a full year? Not by negligence, but by policy.”

They add, “Students with disabilities are supposed to be educated in the ‘least restrictive environment’ possible, regardless of whether their disability is that they’re dyslexic or a psychopath, and the paperwork requirements to send them to a specialized school can take many months.”

Despite a laundry list of truly disturbing incidents, the future assailant was allowed to enroll at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after a brief period of good behavior. And while the mainstream media tried to convince the rest of us that gun control alone would have stopped this slaughter, the facts paint a far more disturbing picture of negligence on behalf of school officials. Indeed, Eden and Pollack highlight distressing trends in public schools across the country, where the most deeply troubled students are free to do the most awful things.

Apparently, the loss of life in Parkland did little to stop California Democrats from making sure the next school shooter will have a safe place to shed more blood. There, Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law a bill prohibiting schools from suspending students in grades 4-8 for disruptive behavior. Previously, the ban on suspensions only applied to elementary-school children. The new law also stops charter schools from taking students out of the classroom. Supporters of this ill-conceived measure claim that sending these students home disproportionately affects students of color and those with disabilities.

Florida’s Broward County, home to the Parkland massacre, is known across the nation for having followed Barack Obama’s preferred policy to reduce suspensions and expulsions — without having reduced troublesome behavior. In schools like Stoneman Douglas, it’s apparently more important to appease various social and political groups than to protect students. Such policies ensured that Broward County would keep its name in the national headlines, albeit with unspeakably tragic results.

It could have been different.

Robert Verbruggen writes at National Review, “Against standard practice, the school’s principal had decided no one could call a Code Red but him, to avoid false alarms that could bring bad PR, and the principal was gone that day. Most notoriously, school resource officer Scot Peterson hid outside the building the entire time rather than confronting the shooter. The shooting could have been stopped years before it started and could have played out differently. Every step of the way, officials failed. These failures were sure to result in a catastrophe of some kind, if not necessarily a massacre.” Verbruggen notes several other key factors that contributed to the lack of security at the school.

We can’t place all the blame on the school’s officials, however. The entire community failed the victims and their families, from the local sheriff’s office to mental health professionals to the FBI.

Sure, some students can be paired with school counselors who can effectively treat them and return them to the classroom. But there are exceptions, and we should have policies in place to address those exceptions. Clearly, the Parkland killer was an exception.

It’s far too easy to blame guns for the rash of violent school shootings. Moreover, politicizing these atrocities does nothing but distract from addressing their root causes. We can only hope that Eden and Pollack’s book will lead an effective discussion about how to spot and stop these school shooters before the trigger is pulled.

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