Education Week - February 28, 2018 - 17
expand the Baker Act, a Florida law that
already allows law-enforcement and mentalhealth personnel to order a detention of up to
72 hours for an evaluation of someone viewed
as a potential threat to himself or others.
A state-mandated report on the Baker Act
shows that in the 2015-16 fiscal year, some
22.5 percent of Baker Act evaluations were
initiated for children who were at school at the
time of the initiation. The report showed that
more than 600 such evaluations of children
were initiated at schools in Broward County
that fiscal year, though the report did not distinguish between traditional public schools,
charter schools, or private schools.
"I guess there is an impulse to change the
criteria" for civil commitment to cover socialmedia posts, said Annette Christy, an associate
professor in the department of mental-health
law and policy at the University of South Florida in Tampa and the lead author of the report. "What I would say is the Baker Act is just
one component [of responding to potentially
dangerous people.] I would advocate more for
improving our overall mental-health system."
Jennifer Sughrue, a professor of educational
leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University in
Fort Myers, teaches school law and other subjects to educators seeking advanced degrees.
Sughrue said she expects teacher-educators are
going eventually to get new levels of training
of how to identify potentially violent students.
"How are we going to prepare teachers
and administrators to identify the kind of behaviors that might raise red flags?" Sughrue
asked. "And what would be the procedure
for not identifying just a kid who is acting out?"
"How comfortable are people about pointing
a finger and saying that kid is going to be a terrorist, or that kid is going to go postal on us?"
In Colorado, the Jefferson County district
faced nine lawsuits from injured victims and
the family of one slain student alleging that
the violence at Columbine High could have
been prevented had educators familiar with
the two gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, responded to numerous warning signs.
Those warning signs, the plaintiffs alleged,
included school video projects by the pair depicting the use of guns, violent themes in their
writing assignments and website content, and
statements the two made about blowing up
their school in the year before the slayings.
"The litigation we got was not so much from
families of children who were murdered, except for one, but families of children who
were wounded," said Stuller. "Those children
needed lifetime care, and our society does not
do a good job of providing that."
He says that a number of prominent lawyers in the Denver area represented those
families for free.
"The school district viewed that with a
sense of understanding," Stuller said. "Everybody understood this was an effort to
get resources for children who were badly
Still, the district did not concede any liability. The lawsuits, which raised federal and
state law claims, were consolidated before
U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock of Denver, who in 2001 dismissed all cases against
the district and other school defendants.
"Harris' and Klebold's actions on April 20,
1999, were the predominant, if not sole, cause
of plaintiffs' injuries," the judge said.
Babcock concluded that some Jefferson
County educators had acted negligently in
regard to the warning signs about the two
students. Harris' video-production teacher,
for example, "was privy to information that
demonstrated Harris' and Klebold's longtime obsession with violent themes and
ideas," the judge said. But the teacher's failure to take action did not amount to "willful
and wanton" conduct under Colorado law, the
The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal, but
the cases were settled soon after Babcock's
ruling without any significant concessions
by the school defendants.
"You have a really high bar" for finding the
school defendants liable in such a case, said
Putting On a Lawyer's Hat
Myrick, the Broward County district's general
counsel, and her staff were more preoccupied
with short-term concerns in the days after the
Stoneman Douglas shooting. Those include
working with a local funeral home that offered
to donate burial services for the victims, exploring the possibility of providing money to the
victims from a state victim-advocacy fund, and
advising administrators and teachers on how to
respond to requests for information.
"It really is a thousand phone calls," Myrick
said. "It is a struggle because we are all so
devastated by what occurred. At the same
time we are dealing with those emotions, we
have to put on our lawyer hats."
Myrick said she fully expects that the district or some of its officials and educators will
face lawsuits stemming from the mass shooting. Under Florida law, Myrick said, plaintiffs
would have to wait six months from the day of
"I understand that people, emotionally, need
someone to blame," she said. "Whether we are
to blame, I don't know at this point."
Confronting a troll backlash
Advocating and organizing
Even as he huddled in a school closet with classmates,
Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg began using his
smartphone to advocate stronger gun-control measures.
"I call on the legislators of this country to take action and
stop this from happening," Hogg said in one video. "Thousands
of people have died from gun violence, and it's time to take a
That stance quickly grew into a full-fledged, social-media-driven
advocacy campaign involving mostly older students at the school.
Hogg and others amassed
tens of thousands of Twitter
"I call on the legislators
followers as they aggressively
challenged elected officials
of this country to take
such as Trump, Florida Gov.
action and stop this from
Rick Scott, and U.S. Sen.
Marco Rubio of Florida, a
Student, Stoneman Douglas High
The students quickly pulled
together a trip to Tallahassee,
where they unsuccessfully
lobbied state lawmakers to approve a ban on the type of semiautomatic rifle used in the Parkland shooting.
Fueled by a rousing speech by senior Emma Gonzáles, a video
of which quickly went viral, the students began organizing a
national march and student walkout-and raised hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the likes of celebrities such as Oprah
Although society's responses to school shootings have tended to
follow a predictable trajectory, such student-led activism in the wake
of a school shooting feels new, said Donovan of Data & Society.
"Social media has democratized the ability to broadcast,"
Donovan said. "It allows new voices to be replicated over and
over through networks."
Nearly as soon as the Parkland shooting hit the news, internet trolls struck, posting on 4chan (an
anonymous online bulletin board) apparently false information ostensibly tying Cruz to an obscure
Florida-based white-nationalist group.
The disinformation was picked up by the Anti-Defamation League and then numerous news
outlets, spreading widely before ultimately being debunked.
Similar disinformation campaigns took root after the Stoneman
"A member of an
Douglas students gained traction with their gun-control message.
Hogg, who said publicly that his father is a former FBI agent,
became a particular target.
forum wrote that all of
Hoaxers created a fictitious classmates.com profile to try to
claims were false."
convince people that he had actually graduated from high school
in Los Angeles in 2015. Social-media trolls began falsely deriding
the high school senior as a "crisis actor," or government operative
paid to act like he was mourning at a staged tragedy. And farright conspiracy blog TheGatewayPundit.com "exposed" Hogg in a post that described him as a
"pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation."
Donovan of Data & Society described such "disinformation" as a part of a concerted attempt to
silence the Stoneman Douglas students, by discrediting them and tacitly encouraging readers to
harass them online.
That effort received a big boost when Donald Trump Jr., the son of the president, "liked" multiple
tweets promoting the conspiracy theories about Hogg.
Along with his father, the teenager took to cable news and social media to refute the false claims.
But it can't be up to individuals alone to fend off such attacks, Donovan said. Lawmakers and
social-media platforms must play a role, too.
"We have to think what legislation and regulation can make this kind of disinformation more
difficult," she said, and "companies need to be more responsible for moderating content."
EDUCATION WEEK | February 28, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 17
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