Gov. DeSantis asks Fla. Supreme Court to enlist grand jury to investigate Broward school district

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that he has filed a petition to form a state-wide grand jury that will investigate the Broward County school district.

DeSantis made the announcement Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, just a day before the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“I think it’s something that may lead to potential accountability measures by a grand jury,” DeSantis said.

The announcement followed requests from the community for DeSantis to suspend BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Runcie has faced harsh criticism since the shooting at MSD one year ago.

However, DeSantis said he did not have the authority to suspend Runcie.

“I’ve been asked to potentially suspend the superintendent, just as I did the sheriff. The problem is that I don’t have the authority to do that for an official who was appointed,” DeSantis said at the press conference.

DeSantis also said it was not appropriate for him to suspend newly re-elected Broward School Board members over differences in policy.

“I also was asked maybe to look into some of the school board members, who are supporting kind of the old regime and have been resistant to change,” DeSantis said. “I looked at that, and yes, they are elected, but it’s not clear to me that having policy disputes would be a reason to exercise that power.”

“There was just an election just last year where many of these issues were the foremost issues in the campaign,” DeSantis added, “and the voters of this county chose to return some of those school board members.”

DeSantis said the grand jury will also investigate other districts in the state and that it will have the power to subpoena school board members.

The grand jury will be based in Broward and will look for potential wrongdoing in the school district, such as cover-ups, lack of transparency or the possible misuse of funds leading up to the tragedy.

Runcie released a statement in response to the announcement that read, “I agree with Gov. DeSantis for wanting to know how all school districts in Florida manage money and security issues that impact school safety. Broward County Public Schools welcomes any review or investigation that could result in improved safety and security in our own district and school districts across the state. What we learn individually and from each other will make us all better and will benefit our students and teachers.”

DeSantis said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will also develop a threat assessment program to identify potential mass shooters.

“A lot of times, people who are committing mass violence, it’s not a secret that this is something that could happen,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis said the program will allow investigators to proactively approach mass tragedy.

“If you’re approaching it almost like an intelligence opperation, you have an opportunity to have an intervention before this happens,” he said.

The governor also reacted to a Sun Sentinel report that said BCPS declined to pursue tax dollars for security measures in 2013.

“There was more funds available in 2013. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to take that,’ so there were certain decisions made about funding,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis was joined by parents of the Parkland victims during the announcement.

Andrew Pollack, father of victim Meadow Pollack, said that the investigation will be extensive and that everyone will be held accountable.

“After my daughter was murdered, I wanted accountability. Gov. DeSantis said that he would hold people accountable, and if Ron said he was for accountability, then I was going to be with him,” said Pollack. “Through my civil suit investigation, I will uncover and expose everyone that was accountable and responsible for the deaths of the 17 people.”

Seventeen people, including students and teachers, were killed in the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018.

“There was more funds available in 2013. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to take that,’ so there were certain decisions made about funding,” DeSantis said.

On Thursday morning DeSantis released the following statement recognizing the one-year anniversary:

“On this solemn day, our state mourns the lives of the seventeen souls lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one year ago. Since that tragic day, the Parkland community has demonstrated tremendous courage and resiliency, reminding us just how strong and united Floridians can be in the face of such devastating loss. We will never forget the heroes who risked and sacrificed their lives to protect others, nor the actions taken that day by first responders. Casey and I continue to keep the families and loved ones of the innocents who were lost in our prayers as we honor their memory today in a moment of silence.”

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