(Conservative Tribune) – It is becoming clearer with every passing day that the safety and security of schools in the Broward County School District were sacrificed on the altar of a leftist social experiment.
On Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz charged into Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County and gunned down seventeen innocent people.
Ultimately, Cruz is the one responsible for all the lives lost that terrible day. He pulled the trigger. But his killing spree might never had happened if not for a progressive social justice experiment — dubbed the PROMISE program — that cultivated a fertile ground for violence in Broward County schools in the years leading up to the shooting.
Worse still is that this program, spearheaded in Broward County, was used by Obama officials as a national model for the disciplinary policies now in use in over 50 school districts across the nation.
The origins of the PROMISE program can be traced to a man with personal ties to the Obama administration: Robert Runcie. Formerly the Chief Information Officer of Chicago Public Schools, Runcie left Chicago in 2011 to become the Broward County Public Schools superintendent.
“Working together, the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can do,” Runcie told the Broward school board during his final round of interviews for the position, Miami Herald reported.
“Some of the dialogue that I have heard recently is about arming teachers. We don’t need to put guns in the hands of teachers.”
-Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie
According to an Associated Press report from 2013, Runcie immediately sought to address disciplinary practices which he believed unfairly targeted minorities in Broward County public schools.
“One of the first things I saw was a huge differential in minority students, black male students in particular, in terms of suspensions and arrests,” he said, according to The American Prospect.
Taking his cue from Obama administration officials,including then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Runcie sought to do away with what he viewed as the “racist outcomes” of the disciplinary practices in Broward County in favor of “restorative justice.” And so, the PROMISE program — Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education — was born.
As reported by Conservative Tribune, the Broward County School District and the Broward County Sherrif’s Office signed an NAACP-advised agreement to essentially stop arresting students in Broward public schools. The Broward State Attorney, the Broward Public Defender’s Office and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice also partnered in the agreement.
The strategy outlined in the new program called for using the “least punitive means of discipline” against students and handling infractions within the school system rather than involving law enforcement. In other words, rather than arrest students for alleged crimes, PROMISE instead encouraged warnings, counseling and conflict resolution.
And although the PROMISE guidelines claimed to deal with felonies and other student behaviors that posed “a serious threat to school safety” with more severity, the program doesn’t mandate a student be arrested, even in those cases.
After the Valentine’s Day massacre at Stoneman Douglas, Broward County Sheriff Union President Jeff Bell described the paralyzing effect this policy had on law enforcement officers and their ability to arrest troublesome or even dangerous individuals in Broward County schools.
“They don’t want the police officers making arrests on campus, and they don’t want the drugs found on campusand they don’t want the warrants to be served on campus because it looks like there’s bad stats at the school,” he told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham. “The problem is when that (PROMISE) program started, we took all discretion away from the law enforcement officers to effect an arrest if we choose to.”
Broward County succeeded in reducing juvenile arrests by huge margins each year. Between 2012 and 2016, juvenile arrests dropped by almost 50 percent according to Juvenile Arrests by Gender and Offense statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
But at what cost? Two years after the PROMISE program was adopted, Maria Schneider, the head of the juvenile unit in the Broward State Attorney’s Office, remarked, “We’ve accomplished reducing the arrests. Now it’s ‘how do we keep that up without making the schools a more dangerous place?’”
Clearly they failed at that crucial task.
Unfortunately, this dangerous, social justice disciplinary policy wasn’t confined to Broward County. Championed by the Obama administration, the “no arrest” guidelines were pushed onto schools across the nation in the form of a 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter from the U.S. Department of Education:
“The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (Departments) are issuing this guidance to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin …
The Departments initiate investigations of student discipline policies and practices at particular schools based on complaints the Departments receive from students, parents, community members, and others about possible racial discrimination in student discipline. The Departments also may initiate investigations based on public reports of racial disparities in student discipline combined with other information, or as part of their regular compliance monitoring activities.”
“School leaders got the memo: Don’t punish kids, especially not minority kids. Because if you do, you may face a never-ending civil-rights investigation and the threat of losing federal funding,” Manhattan Institute senior fellow Max Eden explained. “Even if your rules are fair and administered equally, we may accuse you of ‘unlawful discrimination’ if some groups get punished more than others.”
Schools that cooperated with the guidelines, however, were in for a huge financial reward. In 2016, the year Broward County’s school board renewed the PROMISE program, it was awarded with a Teacher Incentive Fund grant of almost 54 million dollars. According to a Broward County Public Schools news release, the top priority for the Teacher Incentive Fund was “improved life outcomes for students in poverty/students of color.” Broward was the only large urban district in the nation to receive the grant.
Even the Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel used these artificially low crime statistics to his advantage. He boasted about these “initiatives” during his 2016 run for reelection.
“The results speak for themselves. As our sheriff, I successfully implemented new policies and approaches to public safety that sharply reduced violent crime and burglary rates – the sharpest declines in the entire State of Florida,” he stated on a candidate questionnaire. “My innovative initiatives also helped keep children in school and out of jail, greatly expanding the juvenile civil citation program and making issuance of civil citations mandatory for BSO deputies….I will build upon these impressive successes in my next term as Sheriff.”
The formerly inexplicable events surrounding the inaction on the part of both the school and the sheriff’s department regarding Nikolas Cruz now appear to be in complete concordance with the drive to lower student arrests that was so prevalent during the five years that preceded the Broward County school shooting. Cruz was in high school when the PROMISE program was adopted.
This is horrific. “In November, a tipster called BSO to say Cruz ‘could be a school shooter in the making’ but deputies did not write up a report on that warning. It came just weeks after a relative called urging BSO to seize his weapons.”
“At times, Nikolas Cruz’s behavior could be a school administrator’s nightmare: Teachers and other students said he kicked doors, cursed at teachers, fought with and threatened classmates and brought a backpack with bullets to school. He collected a string of discipline for profanity, disobedience, insubordination, and disruption,” Miami Herald reported.
According to the Herald, Cruz was never actually expelled — or arrested, apparently.
Like so many progressive initiatives, the PROMISE disciplinary program in Broward County had lofty aims, a grand-sounding name, and deceitful actions to achieve glowing statistics. Tragically, the results were deadly. This ticking time bomb went off with disastrous consequences at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And as long as the legacy of this Obama administration social justice experiment exists in schools across the nation, countless children are at risk.