Some of the families of students and staff killed or wounded in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are filing a wave of lawsuits against the Broward County (Fla.) School District, Broward Sheriff’s Office and others they accuse of being negligent in their duties to keep schools safe.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that 13 law firms representing 26 families and survivors are filing more than 20 lawsuits targeting the failures to take responsibility for negligent behavior that led to the tragedy.
“Actions speak louder than words and the victims and victims’ families have been very patient,” says Todd Michaels, one of the attorneys involved. “It has become clear that the school board has no intention of taking responsibility the families have asked for, so the patience of these families and survivors who have waited to officially file their lawsuits has ended.”
The shooter, a former student at the Parkland school, killed 17 students and staff and wounded 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018.
Some of the attorneys expressed hope that the lawsuits will help spark safety changes to further protect students from school violence.
The county sheriff's office was negligent, one of the suit argues, because deputies didn’t follow school active-shooter policy that the officers’ first priority is to stop the killing. "Officers must go directly to the sounds of the gunfire and attempt to neutralize the attacker,” the suit says.
The Miami Herald reports that the individual officer blamed in the lawsuit for much of that inaction is Scot Peterson, the former school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas.
Peterson is accused of negligence for “not immediately entering or attempting to enter the high school for the purpose of locating and neutralizing” the shooter as well as ordering “via radio transmission a lockdown of the school which precluded students from leaving (while he failed to enter as required by procedure), while almost simultaneously, ordering other responding officers to not even approach the site of the shooting.”
Andrew Medina, who a campus monitor at the Parkland high school, is accused of negligence in the lawsuit because he “breached his duty” and “willfully disregarded” school policies.”
“Medina did not follow one of the longstanding requirements upon which students, faculty and staff are trained to call a 'Code Red' when there is suspicious activity, including hearing gun-shots fired,” the suit says.
Henderson Behavioral Health had treated the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, as a behavioral healthcare patient in several programs since 2009. The suit contends that Henderson should have warned the school board and the Douglas High community that Cruz was a danger and is partially at fault for Cruz being “improperly transferred to [Stoneman Douglas] — a school that he could not handle and for which he was not suitable.”