Parkland school shooting students’ lawsuit against education authorities, police dismissed
A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit over the school shooting at Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, saying police and the Broward school district had no legal duty to protect students.
- Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and staff during the Parkland shooting in February
- A judge has ruled the police and the school had no constitutional duty to protect students
- A student representative said they “respectfully disagree” with the ruling
The lawsuit was filed by 15 students who claimed they were traumatised by the February incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
But the presiding judge ruled police and the school’s governing body had no constitutional duty to protect students who were not in custody.
Nikolas Cruz killed 14 students and three staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. (AP: Broward County Jail)
In a ruling published on December 12, district judge Beth Bloom said the six defendants named in the lawsuit — including the Broward school district, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, school deputy Scot Peterson and campus monitor Andrew Medina — could not be considered at fault.
Judge Bloom explained: “The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor.
“Thus, the critical question the court analyses is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz.
“As previously stated, for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody,” the judge wrote.
Mr Peterson was the only armed person present at the school when Cruz killed 17 people with an assault rifle and injured dozens.
Referring to Mr Peterson’s role in the incident, the lawsuit claimed: “His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatised.”
Meanwhile, campus monitor Mr Medina — who knew Cruz — saw the former student arrive at the campus, but failed to confront him.
The lawsuit claimed the Broward Sheriff’s Office and Broward schools “either have a policy that allows killers to walk through a school killing people without being stopped”.
“Alternatively, they have such inadequate training that the individuals tasked with carrying out the policies … lack the basic fundamental understandings of what those policies are such that they are incapable or carrying them out.”
In a statement emailed to the Orlando Sentinel, student representative Kristoffer Budhram said: “We respectfully disagree with Judge Bloom’s decision to dismiss our clients’ case.
“This case is about protecting the constitutional rights of individuals who were the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in this country’s history.
“We are exploring all of our options for ensuring that they get their day in court, including appealing Judge Bloom’s decision.”
Trump rolls back Obama-era safety recommendation
The US President Donald Trump’s administration has moved to roll back an Obama-era policy that was meant to curb racial disparities in school discipline — but that critics say left schools afraid to take action against potentially dangerous students.
The recommendation was among dozens issued in a new report by Trump’s federal school safety commission, formed in response to the Parkland shooting which sparked a national debate over gun control.
Donald Trump praised the changes and said, “nothing is more important than protecting our nation’s children”. (Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)
The panel was asked to study a range of options to bolster security at America’s schools, from the regulation of guns to the regulation of violent video games.
Yet rather than suggest a series of sweeping changes, the commission issued 100 smaller suggestions that largely avoid strong stances on topics like gun control and whether schools should arm teachers.
“Our conclusions in this report do not impose one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone, everywhere,” Education secretary Betsy DeVos, who led the commission, said.
“The primary responsibility for the physical security of schools and the safety of their students naturally rests with states and local communities,” Ms DeVos added.
Mr Trump praised the report at a White House event on Tuesday, saying “nothing is more important than protecting our nation’s children”.
On the question of whether schools should arm staff members, the panel said it should be left to states and schools to decide, but Ms DeVos said schools should “seriously consider” the option.
The report highlights districts that have armed staff members, and it steers schools to federal funding that can be used for firearm training.
Among the biggest proposals is a rollback of 2014 guidance that urges schools not to suspend, expel or report students to police except in the most extreme cases.
Instead, the guidance calls for a variety of “restorative justice” remedies that do not remove students from the classroom.
Former president Barack Obama’s administration issued the guidance after finding that black students were more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled.
The proposed rollback was praised by some conservative groups but drew sharp criticism from Democrats and advocacy groups.