Florida’s Broward County School District revealed Sunday that Nikolas Cruz, who on February 14 gunned down 17 students and wounded 17 others, was part of the PROMISE program, “Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education.” The “Obama-era program” replaced a zero-tolerance policy with leniency toward student crime.
As district official Tracy Clark told reporters Sunday, Nikolas Cruz was referred to PROMISE in 2013 after he vandalized a bathroom at Westglades Middle School. The district had previously denied that Cruz was part of the program and called such reports “fake news.”
As the Miami Herald reported, last month Broward Schools superintendent Robert Runcie told WLRN that “Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.” That might have been the first description of Cruz’s fully intentional mass murder as an “accident,” but not the first time for the denial.
“I was repeatedly told that the Parkland shooter was never in the Promise Program I was asking questions about,” Senator Marco Rubio tweeted Monday. “Now it turns out that in fact he was.”
“This is a stunning revelation & one that flies in the face of previous statements,” tweeted Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, gunned down by Cruz. “That the District released it on a Sunday is all the more concerning.”
Parkland student Cameron Kasky, a March for our Lives leader, tweeted about superintendent Runcie’s “awful leadership.” It was not the first time the superintendent had drawn fire.
“Under intense criticism over numerous management failures,” Buddie Nevins wrote in Broward Beat in May, 2016, “Runcie has called for African Americans to mob the School Board meeting.” As the superintendent had it, “all the criticism of him is because he is black.” Other locals charged that he had “repeatedly lied” about the qualifications of his hires, the payback of federal loans, and so forth. Another charged that Runcie had “treated teachers and staff, many who are African American, with disdain.”
Last August, Runcie told Michael Vaughn of Education Post that in 2011-2012 Broward led the state in “school-related arrests.” So the district set out to develop “approaches that would keep students in classrooms and out of courtrooms.” After implementing the PROMISE program, student arrests declined 65 percent and 90 percent of the students in intervention programs have not had repeat offenses, Runcie said, so “we are now recognized as a national model for rethinking student discipline.”
Runcie said he had worked with Arne Duncan, POTUS 44’s school boss, who teamed up to limit the DC Opportunity Scholarships program, a successful model of parental choice in education. Runcie was not a fan of charter schools, but big on “social justice.”
“I believe that public schools have a responsibility to promote awareness, increase engagement and foster skill-building around social justice issues,” Runcie explained. “We need to allow our students to use their voices to understand, listen and promote positive change in their communities. Young voices matter!”
As Runcie told the American Prospect, in 2013 he sought to close the “racial achievement” gap and noticed a “huge differential in minority students, black male students in particular, in terms of suspensions and arrests.”
Like other programs aimed at shutting down the “school-to-prison” pipeline, PROMISE aims to help “students of color,” and this opened the door for Nikolas de Jesus Cruz. Under the regime of political correctness, “Latinos” and/or “Hispanics” qualify as people of color, regardless of national origin or skin shade. So Cruz fit the “metrics” of the program and was not arrested, even though he should have been.
Had he been arrested, the February 14 massacre could have been avoided. FBI incompetence helped enable the “tragic accident,” as Runcie called it. He refused to reveal Nikolas Cruz’s school records and told reporters he had no “knowledge” of Cruz’s threats while a student. Runcie also called all criticism of PROMISE “reprehensible” and proclaimed that Nikolas Cruz had “no connection to the PROMISE program.”
That was a lie, and it is also untrue that differential rates of school discipline can only be explained by racism, and that the only remedy is a program like PROMISE. As Heather MacDonald shows, even a new General Accounting Office reports notes that black students get suspended at nearly three times the rate of white students nationally, “a finding consistent with previous analyses.”
The notion that students from different groups act identically in class is an infantile orthodoxy of political correctness. As Thomas Sowell often noted, statistical disparities between groups are the rule, not the exception, and this should be obvious to all but the willfully blind, like Robert Runcie. Last year, this 15th-rate bureaucrat bagged a $28,000 raise boosting his salary to $335,000 and keeping him aboard until 2023.
Meanwhile, if it isn’t settled that all policies from the previous administration are a bust, Broward County parents have the best evidence that PROMISE is by far the deadliest. Heather MacDonald is right that the school districts should get rid of it, but they should not stop there.
The government K-12 system is a collective farm of mediocrity, failure, and indoctrination. The Trump administration should work toward full parental choice in education as a matter of basic civil rights.