BROWARD COUNTY, FL- Robert Runcie, the Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, is making news again. And as has been the norm for him, it is not for the right reasons.
We would love to be telling you about the advancements in security capabilities and emergency preparedness he is facilitating in his district, which includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of a Valentine’s Day massacre that left 17 dead and 17 more wounded.
Instead, we are reminding you that he seems more concerned with gun-control lobbying than he is with securing the staff, students and faculty in Broward County schools.
Last weekend, the South Florida Sun Sentinel published a report entitled Teenage Time Bombs, A Generation in Danger.
The report chronicles the threats that Florida students face “from classmates with behavioral and emotional disabilities.”
Sun-Sentinel reporters Megan O’Matz and Brittany Wallman examined 100 children identified under the state’s “red flag” law, which the Florida Legislature passed after the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.
According to the paper, one problem the reporters identified is that federal law doesn’t distinguish between violent and non-violent disabilities when it comes to including students in traditional classrooms whenever possible.
Another problem: the ineffective response by some school districts when principals and teachers identify violent students.
The report came out the same week as a 2nd statewide grand jury report concerning school safety. The grand jury singled out Broward County for “its poor response to laws mandated under that post-Parkland legislation.”
Another glaring issue in the report is radio communications capabilities, or lack thereof, of emergency responders.
The 2015 International Fire Code, Section 510 lays out the requirements for the minimum acceptable range for public safety radio capabilities inside a building. Districts across Florida are falling short, but none more so than Broward County.
Author’s note: As someone who works in the public safety radio space, it is appalling how many districts around the country balk at the inclusion of a Distributed Antenna System on their campuses to help overcome this issue. Many districts refuse to address this until their state or their local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ, typically the fire marshal) force their hand. Yet, it remains one of the single most important tools a campus can have at its disposal.
But the thing that stands out the most is the following paragraph.
“Even halfway through our tenure, we have heard a great deal of testimony regarding the reticence of teachers, students and other school employees to report everything from simple incidents of delinquency to dangerous criminal conduct, either because of fear of reprisal, discouragement from school administrators, or because of a simple lack of knowledge as to the reporting requirements and procedures.”
While the report does say that they issue is a state-wide problem, it is especially critical of Broward County.
So, what does Runcie do to respond to the reports? He wrote the Sun-Sentinel to dispute the claims of the grand jury report.
In opening, he said:
“Because of the tragedy at MSD, Broward County Public Schools has an acute awareness of safety in all of our schools. We are also, understandably, perceived as “ground zero” by districts around the state and country for how we are making our schools and our educational environment safer.”
He immediately goes down the list of problem areas.
Radio communication failures. The grand jury report was critical of emergency communications systems not being upgraded to allow “more efficient and unified 911 systems and better coordination among law enforcement agencies.
In collaboration with Broward County, BCPS migrated its existing school bus radio system from the public safety radio system to a new system, which provides reliable communication to our buses each day without impacting the capacity of the public safety system.
It was implemented ahead of schedule and before the start of the school year and ensures that first responders have a dedicated public radio system.
So, BCPS put the buses on an independent network, freeing up the in-building radio systems for public safety radio.
Nowhere in his response does he say if the in-building systems meet the IFC code requirements of -95 decibels (dB) across 98% of the building. The only way to determine that is through Radio Frequency (RF) surveys to determine signal strength.
The Sun-Sentinel response to his response?
- The district has an “acute awareness of safety.” Then what explains the grand jury report?
- “We tolerate nothing less than complete reporting of (violent) incidents.” Then what explains the findings from outside the district that Runcie and his team have done just the opposite? What explains their attempt — which the Sun Sentinel exposed — to cover up how the district mishandled the Parkland shooter?
- The district formed a “joint task force” with the teacher’s union to deal with violent students. But the task force didn’t meet for four months.
- The district provides “active assailant training.” Yes, in the form of an eight-minute video.
According to the Sun-Sentinel columnist Randy Schultz, Runcie refused to speak with O’Matz and Wallman, though he is scheduled to do so on Thursday.
Four months ago, Runcie similarly refused to speak with WSVN-Channel 7 reporters when the station reported complaints from Broward teachers that they get no support from the administration when they report violent students.
Instead, Runcie bobs and weaves. It doesn’t appear that he even wrote Tuesday’s op-ed. Though it carries Runcie’s byline, it refers to “the superintendent.” On protecting students, Runcie refuses to use the strongest asset he has – his voice.
Schultz also identifies another issue in Runcie’s approach to everything security related. The school board enables him to do what he is doing and get away with.
Don’t believe us? Take a look at the report we brought you back in July of this year, showing among other issues, the district picked up the tab for Runcie to travel to Washington, DC, to lobby for gun-control while in attendance at anti-gun rally.
Editor note: More than $6 million. That’s how much is being spent on the superintendent of the school district that includes Parkland, where the school shooting massacre happened.
It’s the same superintendent that we’re told helped to create the PROMISE Program which prevented law enforcement from being able to do their jobs… all seemingly in the name of reducing the perceived numbers of crimes in the schools and community.
Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans? It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice. Check it out today.
Now that same superintendent is traveling the country to rail against the second amendment… all on the taxpayer dime. We decided to investigate – here’s what we found.
We are now more than sixteen months removed from the horrific events that unfolded at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
17 people lost their lives, 17 more were injured.
Two students that survived the attack have subsequently committed suicide.
Multiple officers have been fired for their lack of actions that day to engage the shooter.
The school resource officer at that campus has been arrested and charged with 11 felony counts of child neglect. The sheriff was removed from office by the governor.
Former Sheriff Israel and these officers continue to make headlines as more are fired and as they defend themselves against allegations of wrongdoing. Another individual that has stayed in the spotlight since the shooting is Robert Runcie, the Broward County school superintendent.
Unfortunately, Runcie is not in the spotlight for what he is doing to help his district and community heal or to safeguard against mass tragedies occurring again in BCPS facilities. He is better known for failing to address many of the safety issues that the MSD Commission identified as immediate necessity.
He is instead known for allegedly spending tens of thousands of taxpayer money to travel all over the country to fight against the 2nd Amendment.
Following the tragedy, Runcie immediately joined the fight against the 2nd Amendment and unilaterally decided against arming teachers.
He is essentially saying that teachers cannot be trusted with firearms, that they could potentially be a threat themselves.
Obviously, a couple of the trained law enforcement officers involved that fateful day could not be trusted to engage, so why not allow teachers to defend themselves and their students?
Taxpayers should ask if their tax dollars are being spent on unnecessary travel, lobbying activities, perks, and a super-sized salary for someone who is more interested in politics than he is in protecting the staff, students and faculty within his district.
Just 37 days after the shooting, Runcie traveled to Washington, D.C. and was in attendance supporting the “March for Our Lives” protest. This trip was partially funded by the district. In documents obtained by Open The Books through FOIA requests, it shows that the district covered $957 in expenses related to air travel, lodging and food. The reason provided for travel…meeting with dignitaries for Legislative advocacy. Let me say that again. LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY.
We are not talking about meeting with Congressional representatives about issues in his district. March for Our Lives is all about legislative reform that attacks the core of the 2nd Amendment.
Several months later, in June, he attended a posh conference in Aspen, Colorado spending thousands of taxpayer dollars while presenting at “Ideas Festival.”
Runcie booked thirteen taxpayer-paid trips in 2018, according to district travel records, and was out-of-district for 35-days. That’s the equivalent of seven full work weeks.
According to Open the Books, they estimate that Runcie will earn approximately $6.1 million from his hire date in October 2011 through the 2022/23 school year. This year alone, taxpayers will fund $564,266 in salary, perquisites, and pension/retirement benefits, which do not include travel costs.
Want to see some of the figures? You can dive into them all here.
Just three-months before the tragedy, Runcie received a six-year contract extension worth an estimated $3.5 million in cash and benefits. It was an estimated $1 million increase over his previous six-year pay package.
Here is how Runcie’s perks and compensation breaks down:
His base salary is $357,577, up from his initial pay of $275,000. His workday is defined as 7.5 hours. He is currently the 3rd highest compensated K-12 educator in the state of Florida.
During calendar years 2017 and 2018, Runcie scheduled 36 trips to conferences and other events around the country. He was out-of-office during 79 workdays (16 full weeks). These junkets included visits to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Phoenix, and three trips to Aspen, Colorado, and the bulk of the reasoning for those trips were legislative in action.
Just in base salary alone, taxpayers spent an estimated $110,000 on those 79 out-of-office travel days. There is no documentation to justify the educational value of those trips or his absence.
Runcie also receives fully paid health, vision, and dental insurance for his entire family. His disability insurance plan covers replacement income up to $210,000 per year or $17,500 a month. Taxpayers are also footing the bill for premiums on a $1 million life insurance plan and pay for a comprehensive medical exam annually.
According to Forbes Magazine:
“Like all other Broward County school employees, Runcie is a member of the Florida Retirement System. Runcie contributes 3% and the school contributes 8.47% of base salary. Over the 11-year term of his contract, taxpayers will contribute approximately $330,000.
On top of the regular public pension for Runcie, the school board agreed to fund two additional, private, retirement plans for the superintendent. Since 2017, taxpayers shoveled $48,000 per year into Runcie’s 403(b) and 457 plans. By 2022, the cost to taxpayers will be $288,000.”
No one is saying that educators should be grossly underpaid for teaching our future generations of children. It does, however, raise red flags when those educators are making the amount that Runcie makes while sending time on the clock involved in other endeavors.
As late as November 2018, at the Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission hearing, Runcie admitted that even the basic security measures of “hard-corners,” “Code-Red” lockdown procedures and emergency code policies still hadn’t been updated.
Seems that there are so many people that dropped the ball on the shooter prior to February 14, 2018. There were multiple red flags that were ignored at many levels. Someone could have done something in advance.
Now we are seeing “red flags” with Robert Runcie. He is being paid salary and benefits at an obscene rate for someone who spent 20% of his billable time participating in lobbyist activities.
Shouldn’t someone, somewhere, step in and take action before this goes any further?
Back in May, the Broward school district gave a huge slap in the face to the families of all of those killed in the Parkland shooting.
The Broward school district has changed its description of the controversial “Promise” program that lead to the shooting.
Why? So they can sidestep a new state law requiring schools to share more information with law enforcement.
Florida passed a law last year after the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It requires that students who go through pre-arrest diversion programs must be entered into a state database. That database is run by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The Broward school district doesn’t want to share that information.
So they’re now saying that Promise isn’t really a diversion program.
They’re now calling it an “alternative to external suspension” program and say that means it doesn’t fall under the new law.
On February 6, the district initially decided its data must be shared and started doing so. They backtracked when they started worrying that doing so made some kids more prone to arrest, and they stopped doing it on March 4.
“I’m not in favor of giving data that’s going to accumulate and be used in a punitive way to levy points that could hurt students,’ said Broward School Board member Rosalind Osgood.
The entire point of the law was to identify dangerous students like the Parkland killer before something like that shooting can happen.
The idea behind it is to give law enforcement access to a child’s full criminal history, including diversions, so police could decide if an arrest was necessary.
The school doesn’t want that. The district’s general counsel, Barbara Myrick, issued a memo on March to Superintendent Robert Runcie and Mickey Pope, an administrator who oversees the program.
That memo says that a diversion program has a specific definition under state law.
According to her, a police-issued civil citation is a type of state-defined diversion, as are programs requiring a student to surrender a driver’s license and “neighborhood restorative justice programs.”
“It is clear that the Promise Program does not meet the statutory definition of a diversion program and therefore, a student’s information/data regarding participation in the Promise Program should not be entered into the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Information System database,” she wrote.
But State Attorney Mike Satz couldn’t disagree more.
“We have always felt, and we still feel that Promise is a diversion program,” Satz said in a statement. “We believe there is a requirement under the law to enter the information into the Department of Juvenile Justice database.”
The way the district is now describing the Promise program is a clear change from what it’s said in the past.
Pope, who has since retired, spoke about it to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission in June.
“It was modeled after Clayton County, Georgia’s diversion, pre-diversion program,” he said.
That commission has been investigating what lead to the massacre.
On January 17, the district again referred to Promise as a “pre-diversion” program. It came in a report that very specifically outlined how the district was responding to the recommendations of the commission.
In particular, the commission urged that school districts run pre-arrest diversion programs consistently with criteria established by their local state attorney.
In case you weren’t aware, here are the offenses that fall under the Promise Program:
- Alcohol – Possession / Use / Under the Influence
- Alcohol Sale / Attempted Sale / Transmittal
- Assault / Threat (no harm or injury)
- Disruption on Campus (Major)
- Drug – Use / Possession / Under the Influence
- Drug Paraphernalia – Possession
- False Accusation Against School Staff
- Fighting – Mutual Combat
- Theft- Petty <$300
- Vandalism/Damage to Property <$1,000
The school district issued a response. They said that its “pre-diversion program was created in 2011 to provide an alternative to external suspensions for students charged with non-violent disciplinary infractions.”
In a parent meeting on February 5, Runcie was asked about the Promise program. He said, “These pre-diversion programs are required by state laws to provide services to kids that are involved in nonviolent, nonthreatening misdemeanor situations.”
The school district started the Promise program with the support of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and other agencies several years ago.
The idea behind it wasn’t to reduce violence – it was to drop the large number of arrests of black teens for minor offenses.
The Obama administration considered it a model for other school districts to follow after arrests dropped dramatically. But it was clearly just a numbers game.
The program came under attack after the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.
Critics argued it allowed the killer to stay off the radar of police while he committed multiple infractions.
The commission said that the program was flawed and recommended the district share information with other law enforcement agencies.
Commission member Ryan Petty’s daughter Alaina was killed at Stoneman Douglas. He said the district’s efforts appear to be an attempt to preserve its “ability to operate the Promise program outside the confines of state law and agreements with local law enforcement agencies and the state attorney.”
Broward school officials argue they want to share information with law enforcement.
According to them, they’re fine with it being used to provide additional resources, such as counseling, to students.
But they say sharing some information, such as non-criminal disciplinary measures, violates students’ privacy rights. They make sure to not say anything about protecting the rights of the students who were killed in the Parkland massacre.
The district spokesman Cathleen Brennan shared a canned response:
The school district is:
“…committed to ensuring full collaboration with law enforcement in sharing appropriate disciplinary actions to ensure the community has both public safety and privacy rights respected,” she said.
She the district is awaiting guidance from the state on how to accomplish this, and argued that law enforcement has always been able to request student discipline data directly through the school administration.
The Broward County Chiefs of Police Association is not happy. It’s been one of the agencies critical of the district’s Promise program. The association is also upset with the lack of shared information among the association’s concerns.
Lauderhill Police Chief Constance Stanley leads the group.
She said the chiefs are trying to resolve differences with the school district but wouldn’t specifically address the sharing-of-information issue.
“Until we meet with the School Board to further discuss, I will refrain from commenting,” she said. “We will continue to work towards addressing all concerns and hope that we come to a happy medium.”
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.
Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing! (See image below.) Thanks for being a part of the LET family!