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parkland students mourn at a cross
Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

One of the questions that surfaces repeatedly from the shooting in Parkland, Florida is why the FBI and local law enforcement didn’t do more to stop the shooter. He was a ticking time bomb who posted a number of threatening messages. And he assaulted students, cursed at teachers, kicked in classroom doors, started fistfights, and threw chairs.

Despite all of this behavior online and in person, he was never arrested. He was transferred from school to school. He eventually was sent back to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But no other action was taken.

One possible explanation is the PROMISE program that was developed to keep young people out of the criminal justice system. It was enacted as a policy to end the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Proponents wanted to prevent minority students from ending up in prison because they were disciplined at school.

Their concern was that when police are on a school campus (in order to protect students), they end up arresting students for minor offenses. These students then get a criminal record, which often leads to prison rather than to college. The PROMISE program was implemented in Broward County four years ago because it had the most school-related arrests in Florida.

The agreement with the Broward County Public Schools prevented the police from dealing with misdemeanors and other offenses. Instead, school administrators would deal with such issues. That may explain why there seemed to be a hands-off policy toward the shooter and other students.

Proponents reject the idea that the PROMISE program prevented legal action against the shooter. They point out that he was expelled from the school for disciplinary reasons a year before the shooting. While that is true, you do have to wonder about the impact such a policy had in creating a mindset that prevented intervention by law enforcement. I think this explains why so little action was taken against the shooter.


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