Packed forum on school safety becomes debate on Runcie's future

Supporters, opponents of Broward superintendent speak out

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Supporters of Robert Runcie, the superintendent of Broward County Public School, filled the seats at Monday's town hall on safety, but so did many of his opponents including Fred Guttenberg who lost his daughter Jaime in the Parkland school shooting.

"I can't help but blame you. My daughter is dead and this community is coming apart," Guttenberg said.

Family members of other victims spoke out as well at the forum at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. More than 500 people attended and an overflow crowd watched on television outside the venue.

"There's no changes at my school, in fact, we have less security," said Debbie Hixon, whose husband Chris Hixon was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "I'm addressing the community because I'm tired of addressing you for the last year."

But Runcie was not without his defenders.

"Just as strong as you feel about getting rid of Bob Runcie -- we feel just as strongly that it ain't gonna happen," said state Sen. Perry Thurston.


The forum was an opportunity for the entire school board and staff to directly answer questions about school safety and security measures already completed and plans still in the pipeline.

"Safety and security has always been a priority in this district and that's always been a priority for this district," Runcie said.

But the focus from the audience often fell on the political divide over Runcie's future.

"Why should you stay in your job? This community right now is struggling with what has gone on over the past year," Guttenberg said.

Runie responded: "Leadership is not about in my view about cutting and run when it gets really tough. Given the fact that this occurred under my watch as superintendent, I need to fix it."

At the center of the discussion was the district's newly hired chief of safety and security -- Brian Katz.

"Anybody who says they can guarantee safety to you is lying. What we can do is mitigate risk," he said.


Despite all the talk, Parkland families believe they got very few answers.

"We're always hiring other people to ignore what can be done to be better. Why can't we just do what needs to be done and get it moving?" Debbie Hixon said.

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