FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — More than 50 teachers chanted “bring them back” outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Tuesday morning, demanding the return of four administrators who were reassigned after a state commission’s investigation of the shooting that killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day.
The suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, 20, appeared later Tuesday in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom for issues dealing with procedural motions. Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted of the massacre. Cruz’s lawyers say he would plead guilty to murder and attempted murder charges in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that.
Broward County Public Schools announced Monday that the three assistant principals and one security specialist were being placed in other administrative jobs. The statement didn’t say why they were being reassigned.
The decision followed the latest meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. The school district said it is using material from the commission to improve school safety and student services.
The head of an association that represents three of the four administrators said they’ll sue the district to halt the reassignments.
Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association, said the administrators haven’t been told the reason for their reassignments, and that’s a violation of their due process rights.
“This is a political ploy. This is political scapegoating at its worst. They have not been informed of any wrongdoing. They have not been informed of any charges,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said the administrators were being targeted since they were “most engaged that day with the event.”
“They are easy to target, and yet ever since the tragedy and during the tragedy, they put their own lives on the line to save kids,” Maxwell said. “It’s absolutely devastating to them and their families, and now they are being victimized yet again.”
The three assistant principals were Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter Jr. and Denise Reed. The security specialist was Kelvin Greenleaf.
Two students told commission investigators that they had reported Cruz to an administrator for making threats, but felt they were not taken seriously. The students disagreed on whether they spoke to Morford or Principal Ty Thompson.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jamie was killed in the massacre, said there were glaring, repeated failures at every level before, during and after the shooting including by the Broward School District, Broward Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
“Every which way, it’s just been failure after failure and nobody really being held accountable in positions that should be.”
Guttenberg added that many of the problems the commission outlined in a video presentation this month had been previously raised by victims’ families.
At Tuesday’s court hearing, Cruz’s attorneys asked Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to prevent the Broward Sheriff’s Office from releasing observation reports done by corrections officers at the jail where he is being held. Assistant Public Defender Diane Cuddihy argued that the reports are essentially medical records exempt from disclosure because they document Cruz’s behavior and mental condition.
The sheriff’s office contends that the reports only document what Cruz is doing while on suicide watch at the jail and are not done by trained medical professionals.
Scherer did not immediately rule on the request. The next hearing for Cruz is Jan. 8.
Associated Press reporters Mike Schneider in Orlando and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.