The families of several victims of February’s shooting in Parkland made their boldest call for action yet Thursday, asking for the entire Broward County School Board to be replaced in elections later this month.
“The current school board has failed to properly prepare the county’s 234 schools for the upcoming school year,” said Tony Montalto, a member of the group Stand With Parkland that was created in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Montalto’s daughter Gina was one of 17 people killed in the attack.
“The constant reversals of policy positions continue to leave our county’s students and teachers at risk and clearly show there is no unified plan to keep them safe,” Montalto added.
He called out the School Board for its failure to conduct a proper internal investigation into its procedures to address the massacre. He also said the county has not properly strengthened security measures by ensuring every school has only one point of entry.
“They are unable to make decisions that they can agree upon and commit to,” said Fred Guttenberg, referring to the School Board. Guttenberg lost his daughter Jaime in the shooting.
Guttenberg also had harsh words for the Board after a recent meeting where members battled each other over the failure to install metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas before the start of this upcoming school year.
“We need leadership that is not affected by what happened and can look clearly and concisely and set a plan of action for the safety of our kids.”
Max Schachter, whose son Alex was gunned down, added his experience attempting to work with the School Board.
Schachter says he raised millions of dollars in donations in the form of products to help increase security within Broward schools. But when it came to getting approval from the School Board, he was met with a series of brick walls.
“It’s just frustrating dealing with this district,” Schachter said.
“There is no accountability. There’s no leadership. We don’t want this to happen to other schools. We don’t want this to happen to any other children.”
Ryan Petty, who is running for a School Board seat after losing daughter Alaina in the attack, pointed to measures taken by Polk County and Miami-Dade County to help buff up armed security within the counties’ schools.
“That’s leadership,” said Petty. That’s what we’re lacking here.”
Members of the group were split over whether Superintendent Robert Runcie should also be replaced, though some did call for his ouster.
“The leadership in place is not the right leadership for the time, they are failing,” Guttenberg said of Runcie’s performance.
“We’ve pointed out that the School Board’s has many failures,” Montalto added. Though he stopped short of advocating for Runcie to be replaced, he noted, “we believe [the School Board] can make the changes if they need to.”
Still, the focus was on the School Board elections this month. “This community has an opportunity to help change this,” Montalto said.
“Vote for new School Board representation that will be more concerned about the safety of students and teachers in all Broward County schools.”
“That’s all you gotta do,” added Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was slain in February. “That’s all the parents want you to do is go out and vote.”
The Broward School Board releases a statement responding to the parents’ concerns.
“The School Board and Superintendent continue to deal with unprecedented circumstances and difficult decisions that are the direct result of one young man’s unspeakable decision to take the lives of others,” said Cathleen Brennan, a spokesperson for the School Board.
“There is no fast, easy fix and there is no roadmap. The District has dealt with the shock and trauma of the shooting, managing the aftermath of the tragedy and a variety of ongoing investigations, as it continues to evaluate new and effective ways to enhance safety and security throughout the school system.”
She continued, “It is understandable that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas families feel frustrated, want answers and seek solutions. We share in those emotions. But it is also important that fact be separated from misrepresentation, and that the progress District leadership has made in a short window of time, be allowed to continue properly and thoughtfully in order to implement the best solutions.”
Early voting for the Broward School Board begins Aug. 18. Election Day is Aug. 28.