During the first five minutes of the state's second Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission meeting, the chair of the group, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, read a letter from Andrew Pollack, announcing his resignation from the commission.
"Please accept my resignation from the MSD public safety commission," Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, wrote in a letter. "I will be spending my time helping to elect individuals to the Broward County School Board that will ensure our schools are safe. It is my intention to get individuals elected to our school board that will take preventative measures in keeping our schools safe.”
The 16 member commission is now down to 15. Its goal is to conduct interviews looking into the "system failures" that led to the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. The group is required to publish its first report by Jan. 1, 2019.
The report is supposed to include recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott about future changes to make regarding statewide school security, the law enforcement response to the shooting, a history of shootings at K-12 schools, and active shooter protocol best practices.
Gualtieri said it will require "herculean effort" to get the report to the Governor by Jan. 1, but ensured that it would get done.
"My message to anyone who thinks we’re moving slowly: we’re not."
The commission was created during this year’s state legislative session, through Senate Bill 7026 - or the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. The bill also stipulates new school security requirements, including mandating active shooter training for students in all Florida elementary, middle, and high schools beginning in August 2019
During the first meeting of the commission on April 24, parents of victims were faced with tough details revealed by the Broward Sheriff's Office, including animation of the shooting in real time, and communication errors between agencies.
In the afternoon presentations, the commission started to hear from the state Dept. of Education and from Broward County Schools about how the district uses its multiple discipline programs, and especially about how the controversial PROMISE program operates.
The commission was initially told by the Broward Sheriff’s Office that confessed-shooter Nikolas Cruz had never participated in the PROMISE discipline program, but a WLRN investigation revealed in early May that Cruz was sent to PROMISE when he was in middle school. It's unclear if he ever attended.
At the time, there was no electronic system in place to track down students who were referred to the program but didn’t attend. That didn’t kick in until 2014—after Cruz was referred to PROMISE, according to Broward County Schools.
“I understand that he was [involved in PROMISE],” Gualtieri said at the meeting Thursday.
“We need to find out the details - the facts matter - and we need to flush all this out before we form any opinions or come to any conclusions,” he said. “Diversion programs are a good thing...they need to be used properly. We need to find out in this case is ... was it used properly?"
The commission will investigate Cruz's participation in PROMISE in future meetings.
Michaelle "Mickey" Pope is the Executive Director of Student Support Services for Broward County Schools. She presented to the commission, reading a letter from Superintendent Robert Runcie, who could not be present.
“Know that we will be a contributing partner with you for the duration of the commission's work,” Runcie’s letter said.
He also stated that Broward County Schools has an external review underway that will be released by June 30, 2018.
Pope walked the commission through PROMISE’s intended parameters and supporting programs, including how the program is supposed to involve law enforcement.
A full matrix of PROMISE-eligible offenses and their corresponding program punishments can be found here.
“Nothing in this agreement is intended to decrease the discretion of law enforcement,” Pope said. “We know that moving forward we have some serious work around the senate bill...that we need to address.”
Gualtieri notified Pope after her presentation that the commission would have multiple follow-up requests into the PROMISE program.