Families of MSD victims urge people to vote out Broward County school officials

Parents slam district's response to school safety proposals after massacre

SUNRISE, Fla. – Families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting held a news conference Thursday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, where they urged the community to vote the current Broward County School Board out of office.

Parents of some of the 14 students killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spoke at the podium, blasting the county's current leadership for their "inaction" and "flip-flopping" on school safety after the shooting.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina, 14, was among those killed, said the school district vowed to have single points of entry and armed guardians at every public school in the county, but 40 percent of schools are about to head into the beginning of the next school year without those changes.

He also called out the school district for suspending its internal review of the massacre. 

"In July, nearly five months after the mass shooting that took the lives of our children and our spouses, they finally hired an outside consultant to do an independent investigation, only to then terminate the investigation and fire the consultant just one week later," he said. "We are forced to ask, 'How can they fix the deficit policies if they don't know what failed?'"

According to a news release from the school district, the district was recently notified that the MSD High School Public Safety Commission is ready to begin interviewing the school’s administrators and staff about the events before, during and after the tragedy.

District officials said they decided to suspend the internal review to avoid asking staff members to participate in multiple interviews.

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime, 14, was killed in the shooting, said he believes new leadership is needed that can handle the issues at hand following the shooting. 

He blasted the current school board for bickering with each other at a meeting this week regarding metal detectors at the school.

"The school board, which has continued to fail, made a mockery of what should be happening in a process two days ago at the televised meeting that I think most people saw, where they blamed each other for decisions that were made and unmade," Guttenberg said.

He also said the school board should be fired for declaring this past school year the best school year for the county. 

"I can look around right now and I can tell you with certainty, 2017 was the worst year," Guttenberg said. 

April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen, 16, was killed in the massacre, and who was named director of school safety and security months after the shooting, attended Thursday morning's school board meeting. 

"This morning, I attended the state of the district address, where our school board member Donna Korn stood up in front of all district administrators and said that last year was an amazing year. In fact, she said it was the best year in Broward schools," Schentrup said.

Schentrup held back tears as she continued, "Being an employee of the school district and a mother who has endured such tragedy, it was difficult to hear those words."

Ryan Petty, father of Parkland school shooting victim Alaina, 14, praised Miami-Dade County and Polk County school officials and law enforcement agencies for stepping up to increase school security.

"Polk County acted quickly to enforce the Aaron Feiss guardian program. It had over 600 applicants. They've got two classes that have graduated and they'll have a guardian in every school in Polk County," Petty said.

He also credited Miami-Dade County Public Schools and M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto Carvalho with seeking out law enforcement agencies to assist with school security. 

"He pulled the mayors and chiefs of police out of every community in Miami-Dade County and he said, 'We have a responsibly to protect the children in our schools. We don't have the budget to do that ourselves in Miami-Dade schools, so we're going to look to you to help us solve that problem,'" Petty said. 

The father of MSD shooting victim Meadow Pollack, 18, named Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie when calling out school leaders who have failed.

"From the beginning, the superintendent flip-flopped to the whole county in Broward. He was deceitful. There were school board meetings where he called it 'fake news' when people stood up and asked him about the crimes that 181958 committed," Andrew Pollack said, refusing to name the gunman. "He said 'fake news' when we asked him about the Promise program and then, only to find out a month later, he was in the Promise program and he never even showed up when he went into the Promise program."

Andrew Pollack said the school board as a whole also flip-flopped on the Aaron Feiss guardian program.

"The families went up to Tallahassee to get a bill passed to protect the kids of Broward County and the teachers, and we got a school board and a superintendent that votes against a hero like (Feiss), who went in unarmed," Pollack said.

Pollack said Broward County needs new school board leaders who put the children and teachers ahead of their political motivations.

"Broward County put 15 (school) monitors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas with radios. Haven't they learned that that doesn't work?" Pollack said. "What are they going to do with their radios against these guys? Fifteen monitors. They could have hired eight trained, professional, retired law enforcement (officers) for the same price." 


About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.