Father Of Parkland Shooting Victim Discusses Campus Safety: "We Need To Understand What Happened"

May 9, 2018

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie is facing questions about honesty and transparency – so much so that he opened a community forum Monday by stating that he was not a liar.

The forum, which took place at Piper High School in Sunrise, came in the wake of a WLRN report that showed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High confessed shooter Nicolas Cruz was linked to the controversial district PROMISE program even after the superintendent originally declared Cruz was not part of the program.

The PROMISE program was created to help some students charged with misdemeanors and give them the chance to avoid the criminal justice system.

Ryan Petty was at the meeting. He's the father of one of the 17 fatal victims at Parkland, Alaina Petty. He's also on the MSD Public Safety Commission, a group put together by Governor Rick Scott to look for better practices for safety on school campuses. He was on Sundial to discuss Monday's forum and the recent commission meeting, which he said was difficult to sit through. Petty began by describing his shock at the news about Cruz' involvement in the PROMISE program.

WLRN: You attended the Monday forum. Did the gathering address school safety and security issues?

Petty: I don't think it did. In fact the purpose of the forum was, I think, to help the community better understand the PROMISE program. But I don't think it addressed any of the school safety or security issues that I think are on the minds of most of the parents and certainly teachers and administrators in our public schools.

What concerns are there about the school district and the sheriff's office after the recent news about Cruz and his ties to the PROMISE program?

I think the issue is that there are confusing and conflicting school discipline policies in Broward County Schools. The issue is not any one program and specifically the issue is not the PROMISE program. In fact I think the objectives of the PROMISE program are quite good. I think students should be given an opportunity and a second chance. I don't think that's at issue here. I think what's at issue is the implementation and execution of these programs across the district. I think there is confusion and a misunderstanding of how these discipline policies are supposed to be implemented by school administrators and by teachers. And that uncertainty is creating chaotic situations in our classrooms and it's creating an unsafe environment for our students and our teachers, not to mention a challenge in actually educating the students in the classroom.

Should there be concerns about honesty and transparency from these agencies?

I believe our elected officials need to be transparent and open and I would hope that the school district would be open and transparent as we try to dig into what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and we try to understand the other school safety issues that are impacting schools across the district. We need to understand what happened. We need to shine a light there so that we can prevent it from happening again.

You're part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. Governor Rick Scott appointed you to this. What is the goal for the commission?

Our goal and mission is to investigate the failures that led up to the tragic events that took the life of my daughter and 16 others and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. We’re to learn about what happened. We’re to learn about the events leading up to that and we’re there to try to understand it in a way that we can make recommendations about how to prevent anything like that from happening in the future.

You had your first meeting within the last two weeks. It was a hard meeting to attend because there was a presentation that showed the events of that fateful day. But what do you walk away from this meeting feeling about the future?

I left hopeful that we're going to be able to uncover the facts that are necessary to make those recommendations in the future. I thought the first meeting was enlightening. We got to hear testimony from the Broward sheriff's office about the event. It is personally very painful for me to watch an animation of the shooting, quite difficult ... for the three parents that are a part of that commission to have to watch that. But if we can protect other children in our schools, then the difficulty and pain of having to watch animation and learn about what happened that day and ... the things we could have done differently to prevent that from happening, will be well worth it.