Stoneman Douglas Commission hosts meetings in Sunrise

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission kicked off a series of meetings Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent violence in schools.

The first meeting began at 8:45 a.m. inside the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

The commission looked at how to map-out a plan for the PROMISE Program [Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education]. The accused MSD shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a member but did not complete the program.

“The referral of Cruz to the PROMISE Program is inconsequential as far as this commission’s concern and our work and our mandate,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission chairman. “Because the evidence is that the PROMISE Program had no bearing on the outcome, had no bearing on Cruz’s ability to buy, possess a firearm and had no bearing on what he did on Feb. 14, 2018.”

The chairman also brought up the issue of Cruz’s mother, calling her an enabler.

“[Cruz] wanted to buy a gun and the counselor from school said he shouldn’t have a gun. His mother said, ‘I don’t care. If he wants a gun, he can have a gun,'” said Sheriff Gualtieri.

The commission received recommendations to fix many issues, including the PROMISE Program not connecting to the juvenile justice system.

Max Schachter, who lost his son in the massacre, feels Cruz was given too many chances.

“There were so many incidents of violence and aggression,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like there’s any help, and children can just take advantage of the system.”

April Schentrup also lost her child in the shooting and is looking for solutions to prevent it from ever happening again.

“Making sure that we are looking at the students that may pose a threat to themselves and others,” she said.

The other issue, according to the commission, is that there are so many programs out there that don’t communicate with each other, so problem kids are slipping through the cracks.

“We’ve got the Juvenile Justice program, you’ve got Civil Citation,” said Schachter. “Law enforcement can’t see inside Civil Citation, and it’s just a mess.”

Gualtieri also agrees that more action needs to be taken.

“There needs to be such a repository so, good, well-informed decisions can be made and that the right thing’s done,” he said. “You don’t want a kid that is getting five, six, seven diversions, because that’s a problem.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the commission will turn their focus to the Broward County School’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Program.

The commission is expected to hear from Virginia state officials, who said they collect information on each person and can locate that person if problems arise.

The meetings will last through Thursday and continue several times next month.

A final report will be due in January of 2019.

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