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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

‘It was never enough to get him arrested’

Students returned to Stoneman Douglas High School Sunday for an orientation.

Parkland, Florida students and teachers are returning to Stoneman Douglas High this week, though not to the freshman building where a former student killed most of his 17 victims. Classes resume Wednesday on a modified schedule.

Could the school system have done more to protect students from a troubled classmate? Walter Olson on Overlawyered wonders.

Starting in middle school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly “kicked doors, cursed at teachers, fought with and threatened classmates,” report Carol Marbin Miller and Kyra Gurney in the Miami Herald. Once he brought bullets to school in his backpack.

He was sent to a special school for students with behavioral and emotional problems in 2014. But, two years later, he was transferred to Douglas High, a large comprehensive high school. As a disabled student, he had the right to be educated in the “least restrictive” setting.

At Douglas High, Cruz’s outbursts and penchant for weapons were well-known among students and staff. Several students have confirmed they reported his stalking and violent threats to school staff, but it was never enough to get him arrested.

When he got in trouble there for fighting, profanity and an “assault,” the school conducted a “threat assessment.” Cruz was sent to an alternative program, then another. On Feb. 14, he skipped his GED class to commit mass murder.

In 2013, hoping to stop the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Broward schools “stopped referring students to police for infractions ranging from alcohol and drug use to bullying, harassment and assault,” reports the Washington Post. “Instead, students . . . are offered an alternative program that emphasizes counseling, conflict resolution skills and referral to community social service agencies.”

Cruz wasn’t arrested for assaults at school. He wasn’t arrested for assaulting his mother or others, despite numerous calls to the Sheriff’s Department. Without a criminal record, he was able to pass background checks and buy an AR-15.

Max Eden also wonders whether Broward’s new no-police policy played a part “in the total system failure leading up to the massacre, in which authorities took no action on repeated warnings about the eventual shooter.”

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