Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 10
A day after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Fla., students grieve at a vigil for the 17 students and staff members who were killed.
Lost Sense of School as a Safe Place
After Parkland, Fla., shooting, wrenching questions over whether the attack could have been prevented
By Evie Blad
Within 24 hours of the deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. high school, there was a sense
among survivors and their families here in
this south Florida community that this one
might be different, if only because they were
determined to make it so.
The scale of the attack at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School quickly drew international
headlines. It was Valentine's Day when Nikolas
Cruz, a 19-year-old who'd been removed from the
school the previous year, entered a building that
holds freshman classes and opened fire with a
semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, killing 17 students
and adults and injuring 15 others, police said.
Students waited out the shooting in locked
classrooms and darkened closets. They weren't
yet born when the 1999 shootings at Columbine
High School in Littleton, Colo., sparked policy
changes that would alter their generation's educational experience with lockdown drills, metal
detectors, and fears of gun violence.
And now those fears had been realized, setting
off an almost immediate movement of student
activism, yet another call among politicians for
"a national conversation" about gun violence,
and a cascade of distressing questions that the
community-and the entire country-will likely
wrestle with for months and years to come. Chief
among them: Could this have been prevented?
"Don't tell me there's no such thing as gun
violence," said Fred Guttenberg, who spoke
at a candlelight vigil in a public park the day
after his 14-year-old daughter Jamie was
killed in her classroom. His voice got louder as
it cracked. "It happened in Parkland."
The next day, the FBI said it failed to investigate a tip last month that someone close
to Cruz was concerned about his "disturbing
social-media posts" and "desire to kill people."
A week later, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said a review of security footage showed an
armed deputy assigned to the campus had taken
position outside of the building, but he never entered, missing a chance to stop the attack.
Those revelations added to concerns already
Would tighter restrictions on gun purchases
have stopped Cruz? Do schools have the resources to help students like Cruz, who was
known by teachers, law enforcement, and
mental-health professionals for a pattern of
disruptive and disturbing behavior? Were security protocols adequate? Will students and
teachers there ever feel safe in school again?
Stoneman Douglas students are well-practiced in shooting drills, officials said.
"The kids knew exactly what to do and where
to go and how to get there," said math teacher
But they weren't prepared for a set of circumstances that would scramble every safety protocol they had practiced in their drills.
A fire alarm had gone off inside Stoneman
Douglas High School just as the day was about
to end, sending Gard and his students into the
hallway. It was strange, the teacher said, because
they'd had a fire drill earlier in the day, but Gard
followed the school's safety procedures and ushered his students out, taking up the rear to make
sure his classroom was empty.
10 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org
"We heard all of these popping sounds," he
said. "I can't count how many. There were a lot."
Then the announcement: Code Red. A shooter
Gard and his fellow teachers rushed students
back into classrooms where they locked doors,
turned off lights, and huddled in closets and
corners. Some allowed students to put on headphones and call their parents, staying quiet as
they sought comfort from a one-sided conversation on the other end of the phone line.
Because students had already started to
evacuate the building, many never made it back
to their original classrooms for the lockdown.
Teachers spent the next several hours emailing
each other to track down missing students.
As police responded to the scene, they found
hundreds of students fleeing the buildings, walking with teachers to nearby businesses where
they would later reunite with their families.
Police said Cruz was among them. Wearing a
deep-red shirt, the school's color, he discarded his
weapon and blended in with the crowd.
Before the shooting, a campus monitor saw
Cruz enter the building carrying a backpack
and duffel bag and "recognized him as a former
troubled student," court documents show. He radioed a co-worker to warn him Cruz was "walking purposefully" toward the freshman building.
Within a minute, the monitor heard gun shots.
"Stuff like this shouldn't be allowed to happen,"
said a sophomore who did not want to be named.
She added that the building was "way too open."
School safety experts say controlling building
access is one of the most important measures
schools can take to ensure safety. Many elementary and middle schools limit access to a single
set of locked doors that can only be opened with
permission from staff members. High schools,
usually larger and with multiple buildings, can
be more challenging to secure.
Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie said access was more open at the time of the
shooting because it happened toward the end of
the school day, when staff were opening up the
campus to dismiss its 3,300 students.
"Nothing-nothing in the world-is going to
stop somebody who wants to create mass tragedies like this," Runcie told Education Week. "All
we can do is minimize it, and that's what the
Beyond physical security, teachers and parents wondered if more could have been done to
address Cruz's behavior. Orphaned when his
mother died recently, he was living with the
family of a classmate, who told the Sun-Sentinel
they weren't aware of his history. That family allowed Cruz to keep an AR-15 in his room if he
promised to keep it locked in a gun locker.
"It's the way we have to live our lives in circa
2018," Israel, the sheriff, said at a news conference the day after the shootings. "If we see
something, we need to say something."
But it quickly became clear that many people
had spoken up about Cruz.
Israel's office said it had received about 20
calls about the suspect in recent years. Deputies got a call in November that Cruz "could be a
school shooter in the making," but did not write
a report, Israel said Friday. And two years ago,
a deputy warned the school resource officer of a
report that Cruz "planned to shoot up the school."
Citing disciplinary records it obtained, the
Washington Post reported that Cruz had "a
long string of escalating disciplinary measures
throughout his academic career for insubordina-
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018
News in Brief
Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
A Florida City Forever Changed
Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
On Social Media, Teens Witness, Grieve, Organize
Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
One State’s Dive Into K-12 Aid Figures
States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
The Editors: What Should Betsy DeVos Prioritize?
Margaret Spellings: Higher Education
Marilyn Anderson Rhames: Teacher Quality
Karla Phillips: Personalization
Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Shaun M. Dougherty: Career and Tech Ed
Mike Tenbusch : The ‘Have Nots’
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Racial-Equity Agenda
Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Education Week - February 28, 2018
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 5
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Computer Science for All: Can Schools Make It Happen?
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Pressure to Graduate Failing Students Is Felt Nationwide
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - U.K. Curriculum Import Becoming Increasingly Popular
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Missouri Tackles Challenge of Dyslexia Screening, Services
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lost Sense of School As a Safe Place
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Grief and Rage Drive Students To Demand Changes to Gun Laws
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Florida City Forever Changed
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 13
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Lockdown Drills Prompt Fear, Stress After Parkland
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - A Long Journey Ahead Seen For Survivors of Shooting
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Legal Issues Loom for District In Shooting’s Wake
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - States Confront ESSA Mandate on Spending Transparency
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Several Ed. Dept. Offices Target of Reorganization
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Trump Seeks Ed. Dept. Budget Cuts
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 21
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Maddie Fennell: Leadership by Example
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Erin McGrath: Lack of Choice
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 25
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 27
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - Jerrod Wheeler: Impact Aid Is a Lifeline for Military-Connected Kids
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - February 28, 2018 - CW4