Following Parkland Shooting, Commission Finds There Is Still More To Be Done

Dec 12, 2018
Originally published on December 12, 2018 7:49 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A Florida state commission spent months studying the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year. Today it came out with draft recommendations for the legislature and a warning. It says school officials are still not doing enough to protect students. The commission includes law enforcement personnel, public officials and parents of some of the 17 children who were killed in Parkland.

NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami with more news of this report. And, Greg, if you could just start out with what they zoom in on - what's the focus of this commission?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, the idea here is that they're looking for measures to avoid school shootings like the one in Parkland. And for many of the people on this commission, there's a real sense of urgency. One of the members is Max Schachter, whose son Alex was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Here's what he had to say.

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MAX SCHACHTER: There are over 400 million guns in the United States, 11 million AR-15s. The recommendations that we make today should be made with the mindset that the next mass murderer is already out there.

CORNISH: Did the commission actually look at the issue of gun control or how a suspect with a history of problems obtained a rifle?

ALLEN: Well, not at the issue of gun control per se. That was not really part of their purview. The legislature asked them to look at system failures by the school system and law enforcement the day of the shooting. They do establish a timeline, though, for Nikolas Cruz's kind of career in school and his treatment by law enforcement, but they don't go much beyond that. The legislature did adopt some mild gun control measures last spring, including a three-day waiting period on gun sales and raising the age to 21 for all firearms purchases.

CORNISH: When it comes to the day of the shooting, did the commission look at the safety measures that the school has implemented since then?

ALLEN: Yes. And, you know, they were somewhat critical of the school districts in Florida because some of the recommendations that the legislature came up with school districts have been a little bit slow to respond to, and some of those include the idea of what they call the Guardian program here, which allows some school employees to carry guns on campus. A lot of members of the commission are angry, in fact, that some school districts have been very slow to implement that. Even some sheriffs' office have.

They've also been somewhat upset about this idea about active assailant drills. The legislature requires they have to be done as much as once per per month in the schools, and schools are having difficulty implementing that, you know, putting the entire school district through it once a month, active assailant drill. They're also known as red code drills. So they've criticized many of the school districts on this.

Here's what Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had to say. He asking the legislature to put teeth in the recommendation, including requiring school districts to act.

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BOB GUALTIERI: If we haven't learned anything else from Parkland, we need to know that bad things will happen anywhere and that no school is exempt. The idea that it can't happen to me is dangerous. And for those who don't take this seriously and genuinely, there should be consequences.

CORNISH: So harsh words for the schools. What about law enforcement?

ALLEN: Well, just today they just began to talk about law enforcement throughout the end of the day. And commission members have been most critical of Scot Peterson. He's the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who was on duty that day. They say he was derelict in his duty. He was the first officer on the scene but never went into the school to confront the shooter. He's retired and has refused to testify before the commission, and he's being sued by families of some of the students killed.

The commission says Broward Sheriff's Office was clearly unprepared for an active shooter event. And several sheriff's deputies told the commission they couldn't even recall the last time they'd attended training for active assailant shooter. So the commission has recommended internal review of the conduct of some deputies. But they didn't mention Broward's Sheriff Scott Israel. His name doesn't appear in the report summary.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Greg Allen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.