Three months have passed since Nikolas Cruz admittedly shot up a high school in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people, but many people are wondering why the former student never raised enough red flags to catch the attention of law enforcement officers. Now a new report reveals that Cruz committed 58 infractions at two schools in just five years.
According to the Washington Times, Cruz’ repeated actions qualified him for a litany of prescribed punishments, as well as enrollment in an Obama-era program called Promise that was intended to reform troublemaking students and keep them from ending up in jail.
But the massive oversight reportedly failed at numerous junctures in Cruz’ troublesome school years. Cruz repeatedly received the same basic punishments for his infractions, despite it being against school policy. The punishments never got harsher.
Timothy Sternberg, who worked with Promise for several years, admitted “When you look at the discipline data, it’s not progressive. It’s a one-day [suspension], and then he does the infraction again, and he gets another one-day. There’s no progression of discipline whatsoever.”
Cruz failed to complete the Promise program, which, according to the rules, would get him sent to a judge as the next step. That never happened.
Sternberg explained, “He would have had some kind of contact with law enforcement. Whether or not he would have been arrested — it’s discretionary always with law enforcement. Sometimes they’ll arrest you, sometimes they’ll give you a warning. But the school would have had the responsibility pre-Promise to call the police on that incident to report it and file a police report.”
Critics point out that if Cruz had been dealt with by police and received a criminal record, he wouldn’t have been able to legally purchase the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he used to slaughter students and staff members at the school.
“If Nikolas Cruz had gone through the program, he would have at least met with that counselor and gone through the DAP [Developmental Assets Profile]. They may have looked further into his home background. He would have gotten definitely another level of support,” Sternberg further explained.
He concluded, “Who knows whether what happened would have happened. But at least he would have seen somebody else.”
Diversion programs like Promise are still widely supported as a way to keep rule-breaking students from going straight from the classroom to the prison cell, but advocates point out the obvious — they can’t work if they’re not correctly implemented. About 116,000 youths are accepted into these types of programs a year, according to Global Youth Justice.