More than five weeks after the Parkland school shooting, Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie wrote that “the rise in ‘fake news’ related to this tragedy is reprehensible.” Runcie then alleged three examples of such fake news, one being the allegation that the shooter was “assigned to PROMISE while in high school.” More on the PROMISE program later.
Runcie repeatedly made this allegation, sometimes without the qualifier “while in high school.” Last month Runcie went further and said “I’m not going to allow a shift from what our focus needs to be to a fictitious narrative that’s being made up about a successful program that we have in Broward County that has no connection to the shooter or the situation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
This past Sunday, May 6th, three months after the shooting, Runcie admitted through his spokesperson that the shooter was assigned to PROMISE in 2013 while in middle school. Runcie now blames “messy records” for his agency’s misstatements.
“The school board reports that there was no PROMISE program participation,” a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) representative flatly told the first meeting on April 24th of a state commission tasked with investigating the shooting. Runcie thus apparently deceived BSO as well, causing them to give false testimony.
The PROMISE program is an Obama era programs which allows students who commit certain specified misdemeanors at school to avoid the criminal justice system. Instead, they attend the alternative school, where they receive counseling and other support. Students receive “restorative justice” counseling such as “talking circles” and other forms of therapy.
The signed 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 shooter was Hispanic.
The Obama administration threatened school districts with federal investigations and loss of funding if their statistics showed disproportionately more minority students arrested and suspended. After the school superintendent lied and dismissed true allegations as “reprehensible fake news,” will there be a federal investigation?
Perhaps Runcie thought that another federal “tool,” namely FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974), would allow him to keep the shooter’s participation in PROMISE from being known to the public. Perhaps Runcie thought he wouldn’t get caught lying. Well, he did get caught.
If fake news is “reprehensible”, then what do you call deception in the wake of a tragedy that killed 14 children? What do you call deception aimed at protecting jobs and reputations, while keeping the truth from the public, and evidence-based solutions from being implemented. “Reprehensible Runcie” might be a sobriquet that proves hard to shake.
Comedian George Carlin said he had certain rules he lived by. His “first rule” was “I don’t believe anything the government tells me.”
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