FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A former special education teacher testified on Monday during the Parkland school shooter’s death penalty trial.
Susan Hendler-Lubar, a witness for the defense, said she met Nikolas Cruz when he was a preschool student in an Exceptional Student Education program for children ages 3-5 from 2003 to 2004 in Broward County.
Hendler-Lubar said he was eligible for the program because he had a developmental delay and language impairment at 3 years old. Once he was in the classroom, she said she noticed Cruz was engaging in “animal fantasy” behavior.
“Those behaviors looked like curling his hands into paws, hissing, scratching out, scaling furniture, and so that was pretty unusual to see that,” Hendler-Lubar said.
Hendler-Lubar said she created an area that allowed him to isolate with books and toys related to the wild cats that he appeared to be imitating. She said she used the area as both a reward for him and to keep other students safe.
“Nikolas had a lot of aggressive behaviors and he had limited expressive language. He also had some fine motor problems,” Hendler-Lubar said later adding, “Nikolas would push children, would scratch at them, would topple over furniture ... he would stay away from other children. If they got too close to him, he would basically pounce.”
Hendler-Lubar said she reported Cruz needed “excessive praise, reassurance, and encouragement” to get anything done in the classroom and didn’t do well with “transitioning from one activity to the next.” She said she determined Cruz needed to be in a classroom where there was a lower teacher-student ratio.
Records on public display in court
Watch the video of her testimony