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One Year After Deadly Shooting, Parkland Parents Call For School Board Changes

Feb 13, 2019
Originally published on February 14, 2019 9:29 am
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Florida's governor announced this afternoon he wants a statewide grand jury on school safety. Governor Ron DeSantis says he wants to bring accountability to school district officials. This comes nearly a year after the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. NPR's Greg Allen was there for the announcement, and he joins us now. Greg, the governor stopped short of something many family members had been asking for, which is the removal of Broward's school superintendent. Did he say why?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Yes, he did, Audie. You know, when he ran for governor, Ron DeSantis promised all these families that he'd hold officials accountable for what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that day nearly a year ago and last month removed the Broward County sheriff, Scott Israel, from office. And the family members, they - many of them want superintendent Robert Runcie removed as well. But DeSantis said today that since Runcie was appointed by the Broward School Board, he doesn't really have the authority to remove him from office. He was appointed by them.

And although he has clear policy differences with school board members, he doesn't see clear evidence of malfeasance or any neglect of duty by those people. So removing the school board members really isn't an option either. Instead, DeSantis said he's asked the state Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate how Broward and other school districts in the state handle school safety.

CORNISH: How did family members of the Parkland victims react to the announcement then?

ALLEN: Well, to give you a sense on what families are feeling, here's a clip from Andrew Pollack. He's the father of senior Meadow Pollack, who was killed that day.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW POLLACK: You know, when your child is murdered in school, you expect to get some answers. You don't really expect a cover-up, and you really don't expect to see your superintendent say that the school district did everything right and call any questions about what happened fake news.

ALLEN: You know, despite their strong feelings, Pollack and other family members said today that they understand the governor's logic, and they support him all the way. They're pleased with the idea of a grand jury. Many believe it can result in what they want - you know, the removal of some of these officials from office and perhaps possibly indictments. I asked about all this today. Superintendent Runcie said he can't - he has focus on - he can't focus on day-to-day developments like this. Instead, he needs remain focused on helping his district get through the tragedy and keeping his students safe.

CORNISH: In the end, how will this grand jury be different from the investigation conducted by a state commission?

ALLEN: Right. This commission, you know, worked for nearly a year and took all kinds of testimony from experts and people involved in responding to the shooting and beforehand. The governor said this grand jury will differ from them and that it has subpoena power and is likely to get answers that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission couldn't get. And, you know, even more, they could take action afterwards if it finds wrongdoing. The governor didn't say what that might be, but many of the family members believe this could lead to the dismissal of some of these officials and perhaps indictments. So these are all things we can wait and see when this grand jury - when they file their report.

CORNISH: NPR's Greg Allen in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Greg, thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.