Parkland, Fla., teachers, students protest accountability for staff members
Students and teachers staged separate protests at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Tuesday in a show of support for four staff members reassigned as a result of the Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 dead.
Sixty or so teachers stood together in protest at 7:15 a.m., before the start of school.
More than three hours later, nearly 300 students walked out of the Parkland school after a bell rang about 10:45 a.m. Some chanted, “We want them back!” as they walked to a nearby park.
“The school is hurting and we need to get back to the healing part,” said Eric Garner, the school’s broadcasting teacher. “This is kind of a step backwards.”
But Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the shooting, said it was time to hold school staff accountable for the mistakes made that day.
“They let [Nikolas] Cruz walk in right through the open gates,” he said. “Nobody called the Code Red [alerting everyone that an active shooter was on campus]. Now there needs to be accountability for that. There’s going to be more consequences for the people who failed the 17 that day.”
On Monday, four staff members were reassigned in connection with the deadly shooting: Security Specialist Kelvin Greenleaf and Assistant Principals Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter Jr. and Denise Reed.
The moves came after Superintendent Robert Runcie promised a state commission investigating the shooting that he planned to take disciplinary action against some school employees.
Anna Fusco, president of Broward Teachers Union, defended the teachers for standing up for their administrators.
“They are showing that they believe in their school,” she said. “A person bought a gun and shot up a school. All of our hearts go out to every family who had someone taken. At the end of the day, the person who should be held accountable for killing 17 people is Nikolas Cruz.”
The reassignment of those four staffers has more to do with political pressure than justice, Fusco said.
“People are screaming for them to take the fall,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s right.”
After getting news of the reassignments, teachers at Stoneman Douglas released a statement Monday asking for support from the community in urging Runcie to reconsider his decision.
“Though we recognize that this is typical procedure, there is nothing typical about what occurred at our school,” the statement said. “Removing an integral part of our administrative staff disrupts not only daily operations but the well-being of students and staff. This action does more to hurt the healing and continued education of our students.”
Pollack said he had only disdain for the teachers who protested on Tuesday.
“The teachers are a disgrace to be out there protesting,” he said from outside the school. “These teachers, by protesting, set a terrible example for our youth. These kids … are going to follow what their teachers did.”
Parent Lisa Goel says she told her daughter to skip the walkout, so she stayed in class. Goel said she hopes the teachers can stay focused on their students despite the turmoil.
“They need to be there for our kids,” Goel said. “These kids have been traumatized enough.”
Garner said he does not envision the teachers staging any more protests.
“We know this needs to be investigated,” he said of the school’s handling of the shooting. “But it really comes down to how is the process implemented and how will it affect the student body and the teachers that are here.”
Pollack says he believes the reassignments are just the beginning.
“Eventually they’ll be fired for what they didn’t do that allowed these 17 people to get murdered, and one of them’s my daughter,” he said. “There needs to be accountability when you don’t do your job and people get murdered.”
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