Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Humberto Vidal
February 14 is traditionally a day marked by love between significant others, family, and friends. But for Floridians, especially those in the Broward County community of Parkland, Valentine’s Day will never be quite the same. This Valentine’s Day marked the third anniversary of the infamous Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Fla.
On that fateful day in 2018, 17 individuals left their homes for a routine day at the Broward County high school and, unfortunately, never returned.
Many believe that the shooting could have been avoided had the school district taken action to suspend the student shooter. Days before the third anniversary, one Broward County judge dealt another blow to the families involved in a civil lawsuit holding the school district partly responsible for the tragedy.
Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning dismissed a key component in the civil lawsuit ruling against the families, saying, “the District without control over Cruz [the shooter] and without knowledge of a specific threat, did not have the duty to warn the plaintiffs of the actions eventually taken by Cruz.”
The ruling to dismiss that part of the suit dealt a loss for the families affected by the MSD shooting in the days preceding the anniversary.
“We’ve waited a very long time for what we thought to be a proverbial slam dunk ruling on the school board’s plain duty to warn the students, with whom the courts have forever said that the school board has a special relationship for this very kind of thing,” attorney David Brill said.
In the judge’s ruling, she believed that the plaintiffs’ arguments fell outside the current law in Florida but did allow other parts of the lawsuit against the district to move forward. Similarly, the judge went on to say the plaintiffs were relying too much on “what ifs” in building their case.
“There is no foundation for the argument that if Cruz had been sent to a different program, and if he had been treated as a higher threat years before the incident, and if he had been criminally charged years earlier so he’d have been convicted and could not buy or own a gun, and if he had never been permitted to attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas, then he would not have been on this campus and would never have committed the crime,” the ruling said.
However, two Florida lawmakers took things into their own hands when they found out the ruling and filed the ‘Parents Need to Know’ Act, requiring schools to transparently communicate with parents and guardians of students as well as staff regarding their safety as well as creating an online portal and hotline reporting system for suspicious behavior. The bill would require schools to notify parents and staff within 24 hours when a threat or incident has occurred on the school’s grounds and include procedures that took place in response to the subsequent threat.
The decision to file was likely a direct action at the onus suggested by the judge to enact laws establishing legal responsibility against the schools moving forward.
In the House, Rep. Dan Daley (D-Coral Springs) filed HB 951, and in the Senate, SB 1284, followed by Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens).
“As a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, nothing is more important to me than taking action to ensure that a tragedy like what our community experienced never happens again,” said Daley.
Sen. Jones followed with a similar tone about the legislation saying, “Ever since that horrific day three years ago, the families and classmates of those lost in the Parkland tragedy have channeled their heartbreak into remarkable action to ensure others don’t have to endure the same pain. This legislation will empower communities across the state with information that will ultimately make our students and schools safer before more innocent lives are lost.”
The Senate legislation was formally filed earlier this morning and will reinforce the house bill’s goal to hold schools accountable for students’ safety in the Florida educational system.
While the legislation cannot bring back the lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, it can potentially prevent another large scale attack from happening in the future.
President of Stand with Parkland, Tony Montalto, said the organization’s secretary, Phil Schentrup, had brought up the idea of introducing a bill to the board over a year ago.
“How can you keep your kids safe if you don’t know about the threats they face? When ‘Parents Need to Know’ is passed, it will provide vital information to Florida’s families and allow them to take appropriate action,” said Montalto.
The wish to have a bill introduced has certainly been fulfilled and awaits a likely approval in the state’s house and senate.
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William is a South Florida native with professional experience writing at the collegiate and national news outlet level. He loves fishing, playing soccer and watching sports in his spare time and is a fan of all South Florida teams.