After the marches and media firestorm over school safety since the shooting in Parkland, FL that killed 17, parents and educators demand safe schools from the Broward County, FL school district on Wednesday in a public forum.
The Broward County School District held a school safety forum where grieving parents and educators begged and lashed out at the school district to act in protecting students and harden school security measures. Parents were critical of the lack of intervention and failure to act to stop the former student from shooting students and teachers with an AR-15 rifle.
Parents highly criticized the district for the student discipline program, known as the PROMISE program, to help troubled students stay in school and reduce discipline measures.
The PROMISE program is an Obama-era school discipline program implemented in 2014 with a directive to reduce disproportionate discipline practices against minorities, special education students, low-income students, and students deemed to be at-risk of dropping out of school. These students, according to the U.S. Department of Education, are more often suspended out-of-school or expelled than white students or their affluent peers.
The guidance requires schools to examine the underlying causes for discipline inequalities, like “implicit bias” that causes teachers to see behavior differently depending on a student’s race, inconsistently applied policies, and obscurely worded school rules against infractions like “defiance” that may be interpreted subjectively and applied differently by different teachers.
Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, in March sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education asking Secretary Betsy DeVos to reevaluate the Obama-era guidelines and seek input from state and local agencies.
Many parents, teachers, and students have complained that such policies can keep dangerous children in schools, posing a physical threat to students and staff and creating a disruptive learning environment.
Former students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL said the program had benefits, but they were quickly countered by parents and educators which said that the PROMISE program, and other district programs, that supervision behavior were not effective.
Broward School Superintendent, Robert Runcie, said the there was misinformation circulating in the media about the PROMISE program and the school’s disciplinary guidance. Runcie plans to address concerns about the program in a May 7th public forum.
District leaders updated the public about new safety measures to be placed in the district which consists of school counselors with support services and state funding. Many parents, students, and educators pushed back and said those decisions are too late and they do not feel safe at the school.
This town hall was the first in a series to address school safety and Superintendent Robert Runcie said that school safety measures begin with the well being of students and school employees while learning from survivors and school leaders from the Sandhook and Columbine shootings.
The Superintendent urged the audience to have “understanding and grace” as they move through the healing process and planning for the safety of students in the district.