School district fumbled Parkland suspect’s special-needs request, report says

School district fumbled Parkland suspect’s special-needs request, report says
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The suspect accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school earlier this year lost out on special-needs assistance due to missteps by his school district, according to a newly released report.

The report, written by the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, was ordered to be made public Friday by Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Sherer. The report was originally released with much of the text redacted in order to comply with shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz’s privacy rights. However, the blacked-out text became visible when pasted into another computer document, according to The Sun Sentinel.

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The unredacted report says that the school district failed to provide Cruz with special-needs assistance they were legally required to give him on two separate occasions leading up to the shooting in February.

The first incident occurred more than a year before the shooting. Educational specialists recommended Cruz transfer to Cross Creek, an alternative school tailored to help students with emotional problems. Though Cruz’s mother agreed with the recommendation, he was at that time a legal adult and decided to stay at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

In choosing to stay, Cruz lost all access to the special-needs assistance he had used since the age of three. By law and school district policy, Stoneman Douglas was required to offer Cruz continued assistance, but a Cross Creek employee told him almost the opposite.

The staffer told Cruz he would either have to transfer schools, sue the school district or continue at Stoneman Douglas without any special-needs assistance, according to The New York Times, which also covered the report.

The second incident came two months later when Cruz requested to enroll in Cross Creek. The district was required to respond to Cruz’s request within 30 days, but the district failed to follow through, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Cruz was left without any school counseling or other educational services in the 14 months leading up to the shooting.

Cruz’s grades continued to decline until he had to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 8, 2017. Three days later, Cruz allegedly purchased the AR-15 rifle he is suspected of using in the shooting.

The school district’s mistakes are part of a larger string of failures, including the actions of the local sheriff and deputy, as well as FBI officials, who were tipped off about Cruz prior to the shooting.