Perry Thurston: Parkland Commission can’t scapegoat its way to school security solutions
As part of ongoing lawsuits, a Broward judge is ordering Parkland victims’ families to turn over their social media activity.

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The makeup of the commission is disconcerting, too.
Thurston, Perry, SD 33
Perry Thurston

Who remembers Ken Starr, the independent counsel and his dogged pursuit of the Whitewater affair, a land deal in Arkansas during the time President Bill Clinton had been Governor?

For four years, Starr, a Republican, careened through several politically motivated investigations against the Democratic president until 1998 when he discovered allegations that the president was having an affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

The five-year probe resulted in a controversial impeachment vote and a quick end of the independent counsel law, a post-Watergate reform that many felt Starr abused in his role as he went after Clinton.

There is a Ken Starr taint emanating from what should be a worthwhile initiative to curtail gun violence. Instead, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which so far has avoided any serious consideration of gun control and gun safety measures, while railing against educators like Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie and his efforts to keep minority students from being immediately arrested for petty crimes at school.

The makeup of the commission is disconcerting, too. Law enforcement comprises half of the 20-member commission, with only token representation from educators, mental health experts, and locals from the Parkland community itself.

There is also an appalling lack of racial diversity on the commission, despite the fact that minority students are a majority in Florida’s public schools.

The Florida Legislature created the “Parkland Commission,” in 2018 as a very public response to what can only be described as a senseless act of horror.

On Valentine’s Day, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered his former high school and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle killing 17 people and injuring 17 others — the deadliest high school shooting in our country’s history.

The commission is supposed to analyze information from the MSD shooting and other incidents of mass violence in Florida and come up with a series of recommendations and so-called “system improvements.”

To date, the panel has published a detailed report recounting the shooting, called for arming teachers and recommended scrapping the Promise Program, a reform that allows students who commit certain misdemeanors to complete a diversion program at an alternative school instead of being arrested. The last two recommendations are both non-starters in my book.

The school shooting itself reignited calls for gun control and gun safety laws, initiatives backed by several MSD student leaders and parents. The state responded by approving a law that raised the minimum age for buying rifles, established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers, banned bump stocks, barred persons adjudicated as mentally defective from possessing firearms and created the Parkland Commission to run for five years.

I voted against the 2018 legislation because I thought then, and continue to believe now, that the bill before the Florida Senate didn’t go far enough to address a major cause of school shootings — the easy access to guns, particularly in banning assault weapons, like the AR-15 used in the Parkland shooting.

I voted against SB 7030, the 2019 bill implementing the Legislature’s recommendations for the Parkland Commission for the same reason. The legislation ignored gun safety and under the guise of security only specified ways to bring more guns into our schools.

Now is not the time to pull a Ken Starr in seeking scapegoats in lieu of finding solutions.

The Parkland Commission can move forward by seriously evaluating the high cost of securing schools, the right mix mental health services for students and the easy availability of getting a gun, a problem that has yet to be addressed.

Fortunately, there’s time, but the clock is ticking.

___

Perry E. Thurston, Jr. is a Democrat who represents Broward County in the Florida Senate.

Guest Author


13 comments

  • Sharon

    September 14, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Perry, You should be embarrassed for not voting for the safety act. It was a step in the right direction.

    • Jan

      September 14, 2019 at 10:32 am

      Agreed.
      To quote the author in his own article above: “The state responded by approving a law that raised the minimum age for buying rifles, established waiting periods and background checks for gun buyers, banned bump stocks, barred persons adjudicated as mentally defective from possessing firearms and created the Parkland Commission to run for five years.”

    • Patti Lynn

      September 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      You should have, at least, said: “In my opinion….

      • Sharon

        September 14, 2019 at 1:57 pm

        “My child is no longer with us. That is the hardest part.”

        I believe many will interpret your statement to mean you lost your child at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. This is not correct.

        • Patti Lynn

          September 14, 2019 at 3:31 pm

          If ANYONE interpreted my post to mean that my daughter died at MSD, I apologize. She died many years ago. I was trying to explain the stages that I went through, and how difficult it is to have a child dies, no matter the circumstances.

  • Karen

    September 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    You are referring to the MSD commission was appointed by the Governor Rick Scott. The Parkland Commission is a separate entity. Wondering why you are not able to identify them correctly? Hoping this is just an oversight and not an attempt at race baiting.

  • Patti Lynn

    September 14, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    The tragedy of losing a child, under ANY circumstance, is a life changing event. It takes awhile for the anger, disbelief, and shock, to dissipate, and for healing to start. Assigning blame is included in one of those steps, but, is rarely easy to do. Healing means acceptance. My child is no longer with us. That is the hardest part. Punishing ANYONE,for the tragedy, is usually the first thing that parents want to do. I know.
    More GUNS is certainly not the answer to preventing further gun violence. The Commission’s findings were carefully used to accomplish what the NRA wanted-MORE GUNS!! If you have a child in school, THINK!!! Shootouts involving HIGHLY TRAINED Law Enforcement officers are always in the news. “A gazillion shots were fired”, but,usually, none of the bad guys were injured.
    Believing that guns on school campuses prevents violence is a REAL stretch. YOU know kids,be they curious elementary students, or teenagers, trying to assert their position in their world. Senator Thurston is correct. The conclusions of “the Commission” do not reflect the Broward County community.

  • Jan

    September 15, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Actually the author has his numbers incorrect. He states in his article, “There is also an appalling lack of racial diversity on the commission, despite the fact that minority students are a majority in Florida’s public schools.”
    The facts are that Florida’s minority student population is NOT a majority: the real numbers are as follows: White 49%, Black 15%, Hispanic 26%. Thus, minority enrollment is 41%–clearly not a majority.

    • Patti Lynn

      September 15, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Please advise where your numbers came from. I don’t believe that they reflect Broward Public School enrollment.

      • Jan

        September 16, 2019 at 10:57 am

        Agreed about Broward (and Miami-Dade) having more minorities, but here are the Florida Statewide numbers I mentioned from the National Center for Education Statistics which you requested:

        “Between fall 2000 and fall 2015, the percentage of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools who were White decreased from 61 to 49 percent. The percentage of Black students also decreased during this period from 17 to 15 percent. In contrast, there was an increase in the percentage of students enrolled in public schools who were Hispanic (from 16 to 26 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander (4 to 5 percent) during this time period.”

    • Patti Lynn

      September 16, 2019 at 12:36 pm

      Senator Thurston is speaking about the BROWARD school system when he reflected about the diversity of the members NOT being a reflection of the Broward County community.

  • Jose Suarez

    September 16, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Opinions anyome cam have. Results speak louder than opinions and the results show that gun violence In Florida schools has been drastically reduced as a result of implementing the committee’s recommendations WITHOUT politicising gun control. We have seen time and again that this type of talk (gun control), if implemented, would only hurt law abiding citizens. These vandals that are going to commit these despicable acts, by their own action, shows us they don’t follow or care about any laws nor any sense of morality. Deterrance seems to be working.

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