Did the Progressive 'Broward County Solution' Cost 17 Student Lives?
"We're not compromising school safety. We're really saving the lives of kids," boasted Michaelle Valbrun-Pope, executive director of Student Support Initiatives for Broward County Public Schools, in August 2017.
Valbrun-Pope was referring to what an article by Jeffrey Benzing in Public Source calls the "Broward County Solution." As Benzing relates, Broward County used to lead the state of Florida in sending students to the state's juvenile justice system. County leaders responded with a perfectly progressive solution: "lower arrests by not making arrests."
Authorities agreed to treat twelve different misdemeanor offenses as school-related issues, not criminal ones. The results impressed the people who initiated the program. Arrests dropped from more than a thousand in 2011-2012 to less than four hundred just four years later.
One particular motivation behind programs like Broward County's was the pressure from multiple sources to reduce the statistical disparity between black and Hispanic student arrests on one hand and white and Asian student arrests on the other. Benzing writes, for instance, how a Denver organization called "Padres & Jóvenes Unidos" successfully advocated for a program like Broward's to help achieve "racial and education equity" in Denver schools.
By virtue of his name alone, Nikolas de Jesús Cruz, the adopted son of Lynda and Roger Cruz, became a statistical Hispanic. As such, authorities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland had every reason not to report his troubling and likely criminal behavior to the police.
According to a source who spoke to the Miami Herald, Cruz had been suspended from Stoneman Douglas High for fighting and also for being caught with bullets in his backpack. This was apparently at least one of the reasons why administrators reportedly emailed a warning to teachers against allowing Cruz on the campus with a backpack. He was later expelled for reasons that have not been disclosed, but he was apparently not arrested.
This is not the first time that this "solution" to school crime has produced lethal results. An earlier case in the nearby Miami-Dade County public school system should have been a warning, but unfortunately, the media conspired to suppress the details of the case. The victim in Miami-Dade was one Trayvon Martin.
Miami-Dade schools have their own police department. The exposure of the department's practices began inadvertently with the Miami Herald story on Martin's multiple suspensions. The article prompted M-DPD's police chief to launch a major internal affairs investigation into the possible leak of this information to the Herald.
As the investigation began, the officers realized immediately that they had a problem on their hands. "Oh, God, oh, my God, oh, God," one major reportedly said when first looking at Martin's data. He could see that Martin had been suspended twice already that school year for offenses that should have gotten him arrested. In each case, however, the case file on Martin was fudged to make the crime seem less serious than it was.
As one detective told investigators, the arrest statistics coming out of Martin's school, Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, had been "quite high," and the detectives "needed to find some way to lower the stats." This directive allegedly came from the police chief. At least a few officers confirmed that the chief was particularly concerned with the arrest rates of minority males in the Miami-Dade system.
In July 2012, the Obama administration formalized the pressure on school districts with an executive order warning school districts to avoid "methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools." The White House focused on black students in particular and headlined the press release announcing this dubious stroke of racism "President Obama Signs New Initiative to Improve Educational Outcomes for African Americans."
Like Cruz, Martin was frequently suspended, three times in his final school year. In one case, Martin had been found with stolen jewelry and burglary tools in his backpack. Had he been arrested and not merely suspended, his parents and his teachers would have known how desperately far he had gone astray. Instead, Martin was "diverted" into nothing useful. Just days after his last non-arrest, he was allowed to wander the Retreat at Twin Lakes high and alone, looking, in George Zimmerman's immortal words, "like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something."
The media's larger motive in suppressing the facts of this story was to protect the narrative of innocent black youth killed by white cop wannabe George Zimmerman. A secondary motive was to protect Obama's misbegotten quest to achieve racially statistical "equity" for youthful offenders by not arresting them for very real crimes.
Cruz had to have done something more troubling than carry bullets in his backpack. Before even talking about gun control, Republican leaders should demand a complete audit of Cruz's school records and the rethinking of the "Broward County Solution" wherever it is applied.