In Parkland Aftermath, Investigations & Debate

Feb 27, 2018

Governor Rick Scott is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, regarding the shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland.  

Seventeen people were killed in the attack. The sheriff's office is under scrutiny after veteran Deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned to the school, did not confront suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz, and for failing to submit reports of tipster calls before the shooting.

“The local sheriff’s department; they’ve got to be completely transparent,” said Scott on “Fox News Sunday.” “We have to do a thorough investigation, and whoever didn’t do their job has to be held accountable.”

Peterson has resigned from BCSO. While the Governor wants an FDLE investigation, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and 73 other Republicans want Scott to suspend Sheriff Scott Israel. State Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican from Boca Raton, is going a step further; he wants Scott to remove Israel from office.

Israel addressed Hager’s letter Sunday on CNN, adding that his office would “fully cooperate” with the FDLE.

“It was a shameful letter, politically motivated,” said Israel. “And the letter was full of misinformation. I wrote a letter back to the Governor; I talked about all the mistakes that Hager made in his letter. And of course I won’t resign.”

As students get ready to return to class at Stoneman Douglas, a debate over the idea of arming teachers is at full speed nationwide.

“I’m opposed to that; to me it’s all about focus,” said Malcolm Thomas, Escambia County School Superintendent. “When a teacher is in a classroom, their focus should be [on] teaching; they’re not focused on security.”

However, Thomas does concede that there could be some exceptions.

Escambia Co. School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.
Credit Escambia Co. School District

“[If] you have a teacher who has a background in law enforcement or military, they would be a good candidate to be an armed security person for a campus,” Thomas said. “But let’s don’t dance around it; let’s make them the armed security person and not thrust something else on our teachers.”

“I can’t imagine having to worry about having a gun somewhere near me at school, that I had to be responsible for,” said Susannah Walters, a Civics teacher at Ferry Pass Middle School.

“I’m hearing a lot of the same things from fellow teachers,” says Walters. “we can’t imagine having to be responsible for an actual weapon.”

As with all other schools in the Escambia County District, there is a school resource officer at Ferry Pass Middle. Walter says they conduct active shooter, or “Code Red,” drills. 

Despite their young ages, 12 to 15, Walters says her students have been following the events in Parkland, which she says has put everyone on alert.

“I think it’s something that they don’t want to have to think about, but it’s definitely being addressed in our faculty meetings,” said Walters. “I hate that [the students] wouldn’t feel safe at school, where they’re supposed to feel the safest.”

Allowing trained teachers and administrators to bring guns to school is one of the bills announced last week, which are now before the state Senate Rules Committee. The others include 21 as the minimum age to purchase a firearm, and a three-day waiting period when buying a long gun.