A former Broward County assistant principal who helped run the Obama-era PROMISE program in the school district said the failure of officials to follow up on confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz’s absence from the program amounts to “negligence.”
“There’s negligence here because no one ever followed up,” Timothy Sternberg told the Washington Times.
According to the report, Sternberg – a former assistant principal who helped run the PROMISE program in Broward from 2014 to 2017 – said Cruz, who was in middle school at the time of his assignment to the program, should have been referred to Judge Elijah Williams of the Broward County Delinquency Division for failing to show up for the program.
“[Y]et there is no record that it ever happened,” states the Times.
The Broward County superintendent’s office walked back its public statements, made since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that asserted Cruz had never been assigned to the PROMISE program “while in high school.”
Last week, Superintendent Robert Runcie’s office admitted Cruz had been assigned to PROMISE, a school discipline program that encouraged teachers and principals not to report various threatening and assaultive behavior of minority students to law enforcement in order to appear non-discriminatory.
Tracy Clark, a spokeswoman for Runcie, said the school district had “confirmed” Cruz’s referral to the PROMISE program following his vandalism of a middle school bathroom on November 25, 2013.
“It does not appear that Cruz completed the recommended three-day assignment/placement,” Clark said, adding she did not want to “speculate” as to why.
The spokeswoman said Cruz only made an appearance at Pine Ridge Education Center in Fort Lauderdale — the PROMISE alternative school facility — for his intake interview the day after the vandalism incident.
The controversial PROMISE program likely inspired the Obama administration’s plan to shrink the “school to prison pipeline” for minority students in cities across the nation.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that Cruz committed 58 infractions from 2012 to 2017 at Westglades Middle School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, despite the fact that he was enrolled in 2015 at Cross Creek school for emotionally and behaviorally disordered students.
The Sentinel further reported Cruz had been “suspended at least 67 days over less than a year and a half at Westglades Middle School, and his problems continued at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, until he finally was forced to leave.”
The report continued:
The South Florida Sun Sentinel obtained Cruz’s discipline records, reviewed discipline policies and found:
- Students can be considered first-time offenders even if they commit the same offenses year after year.
- The district’s claim of reforming bad behavior is exaggerated.
- Lenient discipline has an added PR benefit for the district: lower suspensions, expulsions and arrests along with rising graduation rates.
Sternberg, who sat on the district’s Behavior and Intervention Committee after Cruz’s referral, told the Times Cruz should have been brought to the committee to determine “whether this student is appropriate for another setting.”
“When you look at the discipline data, it’s not progressive,” he said. “It’s a one-day [suspension], and then he does the infraction again, and he gets another one-day. There’s no progression of discipline whatsoever.”
“With the child, it does create a false sense of ‘I can do this and nothing’s going to really happen to me,’” he added.
Sternberg said the problem is that the school district failed to follow its own rules regarding the PROMISE program.
“There was a breakdown in communication,” he explained. “Normally, when a student doesn’t complete the program, the district is supposed to tell the school, which then refers him to Judge Williams, but it doesn’t appear that ever happened.”
According to the PROMISE procedures, the judge first attempts to instruct the student to participate in the program.
“They’re sitting in front of the judge, and the judge tries to reengage the student, telling them that, ‘If you don’t go to PROMISE, you have to go before the state’s attorney and further criminal action will take place,’” said Sternberg. “And 95 percent of the time, the student goes back into the program.”
However, even if Cruz had refused the judge’s instruction, he would still have had contact with law enforcement, he continued.
“Whether or not he would have been arrested—it’s discretionary always with law enforcement,” Sternberg explained. “Sometimes they’ll arrest you, sometimes they’ll give you a warning. But the school would have had the responsibility pre-PROMISE to call the police on that incident to report it and file a police report.”
Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute with expertise in education policy, told Breitbart News Runcie’s original statements that Cruz had not been referred to the PROMISE program “while in high school” deserved a closer look.
“The mainstream media accepted this carefully parsed statement as a categorical denial,” he explained. “But those words weren’t there by accident. He was sent to PROMISE while in middle school. And let me assure you, he committed crimes that school administrators knew about but did not record.”
The PROMISE program allows students who commit any of 13 misdemeanors at school to avoid arrest and, instead, receive “restorative justice” counseling such as “talking circles” and other forms of therapy. The PROMISE collaborative agreement specifically mentions that “students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are disproportionately impacted by school-based arrests for the same behavior as their peers.”
The program, and others like it that many cities throughout the United States adopted following the coercive “guidance” from the Obama administration, is now under close scrutiny by the Trump administration in the wake of the shooting deaths of 17 people and the injuries of 17 others at the Broward high school.