KETR

Parkland Students And Parents Aren't Happy With How Shooting Aftermath Is Being Handled

Apr 19, 2018
Originally published on April 21, 2018 12:28 am
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Tomorrow, students around the country will commemorate the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School with a national walkout. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will be one of the schools participating. More than two months after the shooting there that killed 17 people, students and their families are struggling with the psychological trauma and demanding more help from the school district. Here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Broward School administrators have been hearing the same message in recent weeks from students and their parents - you've let us down. Lisa Olson, the mother of William Olson, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, spoke at a recent school board meeting.

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LISA OLSON: As a result of the shooting, my son will carry Nikolas Cruz's bullets inside both of his arms for the rest of his life and the emotional scars of witnessing the murders of three kids in his classroom.

ALLEN: Olson says no one with the school district was aware of her son's injuries and needs until she showed an administrator his X-rays.

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OLSON: How could the district fail to contact each of the students in the classrooms where murders and injuries occurred? This borders on negligence.

ALLEN: One problem Broward School administrators say are health care privacy laws. It wasn't until weeks afterwards that they received the names of 17 people injured. School district officials say they're now working harder to reach out to families of those directly affected by the shooting. That includes a large number of students and teachers suffering psychologically in the aftermath. Retired firefighter Robert Nielson says his daughter Mia, who was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, hasn't been able to return to school. She's withdrawn from classes and is now completing her high school courses online. Now Nielson feels his daughter is being ignored by the school.

ROBERT NEILSON: Nobody, like a counselor, hasn't called back and said, you know, how are you doing? - or checked up on her. Nobody from the school has.

ALLEN: Immediately after the shooting, the school district mobilized counselors to the school and set up a counseling center nearby that remains open and sees students seven days a week. Nielsen says before the shooting his daughter had been planning on attending culinary school.

NEILSON: I mean, have to get her back on the track of her life - that she goes to college and does the dreams that she wanted to do.

ALLEN: The school district has also been hearing from community members concerned about school safety. Students and their families worry that despite stepped-up security measures, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and other schools in Broward County still aren't safe. School officials have also been grilled about the district's PROMISE program, which allows students charged with nonviolent offenses to be handled by the schools not by law enforcement. The district says confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz was never a part of the PROMISE program. To address some of these concerns, Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie held a meeting last night that hundreds attended. He asked students and parents for their grace and understanding and shared his own story of personal trauma.

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ROBERT RUNCIE: When I was 8 years old, I stood next to my mother to watch her be shot as a victim of a hate crime.

ALLEN: His mother survived, but Runcie said his family never talked about it. He was sent back to school with no help or counseling.

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RUNCIE: And I wanted to ensure that none of our families - none of our students would be without the supports that were needed.

ALLEN: Students and their parents say counseling helps, but many are still struggling. Senior Rebecca Bogart saw three of her friends die that day in her fourth period class on the Holocaust. She's been able to go back to school.

REBECCA BOGART: When I go, I have a lot of panic attacks. Some days are harder than others. Just like a lot of things are triggers for me - like the laptops are. I just remember seeing like the bullets through the laptops. And I just leave a lot just to talk to a therapist.

ALLEN: Bogart says the best hope she gets comes from the teacher and her fellow students in that fourth period class. No one else really understands what they're all going through. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.