Florida governor Ron DeSantis suspended four Broward County school board members on Friday after a grand jury investigation into the Parkland shooting concluded that the district exhibited “clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance or malfeasance” surrounding school safety and maintenance.
Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson have been removed from their posts via the governor’s executive order, to be replaced by Torey Alston, Manual “Nandy” A. Serrano, Ryan Reiter, and Kevin Tynan.
The governor’s office noted in a press release that the grand jury found that a safety-related alarm that could have saved lives at the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “was and is such a low priority that it remains uninstalled at multiple schools.”
“Students continue to be educated in unsafe, aging, decrepit, moldy buildings that were supposed to have been renovated years ago,” the report also said.
The grand jury was charged in February 2019 with probing the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, has pleaded guilty, and the sentencing phase of his trial should wrap up next week. He is facing the death penalty for the murders he committed. Steven Schusler, a former neighbor of the accused, testified this week that Cruz had always been a disturbed individual as long as he had known him. The defense team claimed that Cruz struggled with serious mental-health issues.
It was also determined by the grand jury that the school board members mismanaged the SMART Program, a multimillion-dollar bond targeted at school safety and renovation efforts, according to the DeSantis administration. The school board had knowledge of serious issues with the SMART Program, including former superintendent Robert Runcie’s ineptitude to deal with those problems, but did nothing, the report said.
The jury was asked to “examine four issues, including whether public entities and school officials committed fraud and deceit by mismanaging funds devoted to school safety.”
“The findings of the Statewide Grand Jury affirm the work of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Commission. We are grateful to the members of the jury who have dedicated countless hours to this mission and we hope this suspension brings the Parkland community another step towards justice,” DeSantis said in a statement.