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Report: Broward County Grew Increasingly Unsafe as Obama-Era Discipline Policies Protected Minority Students

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Matt Slocum/The Associated Press

A new investigation reveals that while the Broward County schools superintendent and school board are touting fewer arrests of minority students, the most recent state data actually shows the district has the highest rate of weapons-related incidents in South Florida.

Research conducted by Paul Sperry for RealClearInvestigations (RCI) shows while Broward County Public Schools, under the direction of superintendent Robert Runcie, has embraced Obama-era, social justice school discipline policies aimed at ending the “school-to-prison pipeline” for minority students, data indicate the school district has grown increasingly unsafe over recent years.

The school district has drawn intense scrutiny since accused shooter Nikolas Cruz killed 17 individuals two months ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Despite an extensive history of violence and threats, Cruz was never expelled from the district or referred to law enforcement for arrest, factors that prevented a background check from flagging authorities who might have blocked his ability to obtain a firearm for his rampage.

RCI reports Cruz was not the only violent young person who failed to be reformed through “restorative justice” counseling offered through the Obama-era school discipline framework:

Records show such policies have failed to curtail other campus violence and its effects now on the rise in district schools — including fighting, weapons use, bullying and related suicides.

Meanwhile, murders, armed robberies and other violent felonies committed by children outside of schools have hit record levels, and some see a connection with what’s happening on school grounds. Since the relaxing of discipline, Broward youths have not only brazenly punched out their teachers, but terrorized Broward neighborhoods with drive-by shootings, gang rapes, home invasions and carjackings.

“Broward County now has the highest percentage of ‘the most serious, violent [and] chronic’ juvenile offenders in Florida, according to the county’s chief juvenile probation officer,” Sperry writes. “Since 2015, at least three other pupils have brought loaded firearms into schools and threatened to go on shooting sprees.”

Like Runcie, the district’s Chief Public Information Officer Tracy Clark, denies the district has grown unsafe as a result of the social justice disciplinary policies.

“In fact, our district’s overall disciplinary incidents have dropped since we adopted the new policy and wraparound supports to students with behavior issues,” Clark said, according to RCI.

Parents, however, have complained about a lack of responsiveness from the superintendent and school board to their concerns about school safety over recent years. One 19-year-old Broward online education student, Kenneth Preston, presented research last week at a school board meeting alleging that of $104,325,821 designated for school safety as part of the Broward Schools 2014 Bond Appropriation, only $5,584,512 – about 5.3 percent – has been spent since its appropriation.

Growing concerns about school safety and the role of the district’s discipline policies in Cruz’s massacre have led Runcie and the school board to plan a community forum Wednesday evening.

The superintendent, however, has said accusations that his PROMISE program is connected to the shooting are “reprehensible” and “fake news.”

“We’re not going to dismantle a program in this district that is serving and helping kids appropriately because of news that is not fact-based,” Runcie said at the school board meeting.

The district’s PROMISE program was likely one used as a model program for the Obama administration’s national school discipline initiative mapped out in a 2014 Dear Colleague letter. The directive coerced schools into reducing reports of arrests, expulsions, and suspensions of minority students in order to avoid federal investigations and the withdrawal of federal funding.

Runcie came to Broward County from Chicago where he worked for Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan when Duncan headed up Chicago Public Schools. The first year after Runcie put PROMISE in place in Broward, the school district’s arrest rate dropped 66 percent – since schools were instructed not to refer assaults and other crimes committed by minority students to law enforcement.

However, RCI reports:

Prosecutors and probation officers complain that while overall juvenile arrests are down, serious violent crimes involving school-aged Broward youths – including armed robbery, kidnapping and even murder – have spiked, even as such violent crimes across the state have dropped.

Juvenile arrests for murder and manslaughter increased 150 percent between 2013 and 2016. They increased by another 50 percent in 2017. County juveniles were responsible for a total of 16 murders or manslaughters in the past two years alone, according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

RCI adds that thousands of Broward students who were arrested “had their records deleted in the system as part of a program to end ‘disproportionate minority contact’ with law enforcement, blindfolding both street cops and school resource officers to the criminal history of potential juvenile threats.”

“[T]he actual police reports are being destroyed,” Broward juvenile prosecutor Maria Schneider stated at a recent Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board meeting.

Two weeks after Cruz’s rampage, retired Broward School Resource Officer (SRO) Robert Martinez, agreed the school district wanted to keep arrest numbers down and encouraged SROs not to make arrests, reported WSVN.

“He [Martinez] said removing a dangerous teen like Cruz from a school can take up to two years due to all the red tape that was added to the process by Runcie’s new discipline policies and programs,” the news report continued.

“We know that when Cruz committed felonies he wasn’t arrested,” Manhattan Institute senior fellow and education policy expert Max Eden tells Breitbart News. “We hear, from a retired School Resource Officer, that the school board and police department verbally instructed SROs to not arrest for certain felonies in addition to PROMISE misdemeanors. It appears Cruz was shielded from felony arrests by a program designed for re-integrating students post felony-conviction.”

Indeed, while Runcie has asserted his PROMISE program is not connected to the shooting because Cruz did not participate in that program, RCI reveals Cruz was enrolled in the Behavior Intervention Program, an initiative that Eden describes as “PROMISE on steroids for felons.”

As RCI previously reported Broward’s Behavior Intervention Program is intended for “students who exhibit severe, unmanageable behavior that cannot be adequately controlled in a traditional school setting.”

Students referred to the Behavior Intervention Program are those “returning from residential Juvenile Justice Programs,” including students “convicted of a serious crime such as: rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or firearm related,” and those whose behavior off campus would qualify them for expulsion.

Eden says Runcie and school board members who supported him at the school board meeting last week will have to answer to Parkland parents Wednesday evening when school safety is addressed.

“Runcie had the gall to look Parkland parents in the eyes and call their concerns ‘fake news,'” he asserts. “His school board ally Dr. Rosalind Osgood outdid him by accusing them of being motivated by ‘evil.’ But it looks like Runcie was doing a disingenuous tap dance, labeling concerns about ‘PROMISE’ as unfounded when the truth was far worse than that.”

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