After doing their job well and reporting the news that was made available to them writers at a local Florida newspaper are feeling the heat. There are some who feel that writers for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel did their job too well. A mistake made by Broward County School officials placed the journalists in an ethical dilemma. Months after the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where Nicholas Cruz killed 17 people on February 14, the school district released a report to the public that had nearly two thirds of its content blacked out after it was decided that Cruz’s civil rights needed to be protected. However, whoever was ultimately responsible for seeing that those civil rights remained protected and information that was ordered to be redacted was still available to the public. All anyone would have to do is copy and paste the report that had two thirds of it blacked out over to another document and they would have seen the full report.
It was this mistake on the county’s part that placed journalists, Brittany Wallman and Paula McMahon, in a tough spot between keeping the information secret and choosing to remain ethical in their handling of the information. The South Florida Sentinel Sun ultimately decided to remain ethical and exposed the mistakes that the Broward County School District made when it ran the story “Here’s what Broward schools knew about Parkland shooter, details revealed by mistake.” Editor in chief Julie Anderson stands by the papers decision to run the story and defended that decision when she explained that events surrounding the shooting are of the utmost importance to our community. While other media only discussed what the blacked out version of the report stated these two women and the South Florida Sentinel Sun showed more backbone and intestinal fortitude than most main stream reporters who bow down to the liberal controlled media have probably shown their whole career.
In the article that was written by Brittany Wallman and Paula Mcmahon, it was exposed that in the year prior to the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, school shooter Nicholas Cruz had been stripped of therapeutic services that disabled children need and should be entitled to receiving. Despite mounds of evidence that clearly showed that something Cruz was not a regular student, once these services were stripped from him the Broward County School District gave him no choice but to try to navigate life his life as a regular student. Nicholas Cruz took more responsibility for himself and his well being than school district officials did when he went to them and specifically asked to be returned to a special education campus. Officials of Broward County disregarded his repeated requests.
It remains unknown if the events on February 14 where Cruz took the lives of 17 others would have been any different if the Broward County School District had handled him differently than they did and allowed him the proper treatment that he should have been receiving. There is no way any of us will ever be able to know that answer beyond definitive doubt because nobody has the ability to go back and rewrite history. But with the mistakes that the school district made exposed to the public it does leave a lot of room for speculation and in the middle of that speculation remains the question. Is the Broward County School District responsible for the deaths of those 17 individuals who lost their lives earlier this year? A consultant who prepared the report says no. Without criticizing the school district directly the consultant did agree that several changes need to be made.
From the time that Nicholas Cruz was just 3 years old the school district followed most of the laws providing the troubled youngster with special education. However, the two reporters who for the South Florida Sun Sentinel were able to find at least two specific instances where officials for the county did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws governing students with disabilities.
1.) School officials misstated Nicholas Cruz’s options when he was faced with being removed from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School his junior year, leading him to refuse special education services.
2.) When Nicholas Cruz asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district did not follow through.
What that means is because of the mishandling of Nicholas Cruz by school officials he went without the very much needed school counseling and special education services that he needed in the 14 months before he became the gunman that killed 17 people earlier this year.
Now that information has been made available to the public that detail more of the schools involvement with Nicholas Cruz and his verified history with behavioral issues and mental illness, the Broward County school board are trying to pressure judges to hold the Florida newspaper and its two reporters who broke the story in contempt. The filing from the school board says the newspaper chose to report publicly information that the court had ordered to be redacted despite agreeing on the record that the information was protected by Florida and federal law. The board argues that this decision is a clear violation of court orders and constitutes contempt of court.
What it comes down to is that the school board is angry that they have been exposed in what may have been a violation of federal law and now they wish to see the whistle blowers end up being the ones who are punished for what school officials failed to do. According to a St. Petersburg based attorney who specializes in education law regarding students with disabilities, the way the school boarded handled the redacting of information contained in the report is a clear violation of FERPA. Evidence of negligence in how the board redacted the information that was ordered by the judge to remain hidden can clearly be seen.
After researching the situation and the details of redacting a report I personally have come to a conclusion that there is no way that the South Florida Sun Sentinel and its reporters have done anything wrong. It is not the paper that I personally believe is in violation of the court orders, because the responsibility for redacting the report lies solely with the county.