A group of elementary school students opened Broward County’s first school board meeting since last week’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem.
The kids were in their classroom at Griffin Elementary School in Cooper City, but they appeared via livestream video. They weren’t there to see how their performance was received, how poignant it seemed, as their community mourned 14 other children and three staff members who were slaughtered in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting.
Superintendent Robert Runcie and school board members quietly wiped away their tears as the students joyfully completed their task.
“There are no words to describe the sorrow and the grief that this community is feeling,” Runcie said during the meeting, which only lasted an hour but seemed to be agonizing for those present. “We have lost some wonderful, promising children and truly dedicated teachers and administrators.”
Board Member Abby Freedman wept as her colleague held her hand and rubbed her back.
“This unspeakable act of violence will not define us,” she said. “I assure you that the voices of our children will bring about the change that is needed for this world.”
It was the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting. But members postponed nearly all of the business they had planned to consider, taking up only the most time-sensitive concerns. They adjourned so board members could attend funerals of the victims.
After the meeting, Runcie said all levels of government are responsible for the shooting, allegedly perpetrated by former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz.
“I would say the whole entire system failed, right? From federal to state to local,” he said.
Runcie said he couldn’t talk about Cruz’s school records because his privacy is protected by law.
But he said the district works to place every student in the most appropriate educational environment. That’s why, as has been reported, Cruz attended special schools for students with behavioral problems at different points in his academic career.
Runcie said the district would review every decision that was made about Cruz throughout his time as a student.
But he stressed the biggest problem is access to guns.
“Let's assume that we did everything perfectly in the district, and that the mental health agencies did everything perfectly. This young person was still able to go buy a firearm,” he said.