PROMISE program dissected during Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz referred to controversial program in 2013

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Madeleine Wright - Reporter

SUNRISE, Fla. - The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission met again Tuesday to discuss, among other topics, the controversial PROMISE program.

A discussion on the PROMISE program was the first agenda item on the three-day schedule of topics for the independent panel at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.  

PROMISE is an acronym for Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support & Education.

 Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was referred to the PROMISE program in 2013 but never attended.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs the commission, said there are conflicting records on whether Cruz attended the first day of the  program at Pine Ridge Education Center, but that Cruz definitely didn't attend on the second and third days.

Daniel Gohl, chief academic officer for Broward County Public Schools, said because Cruz didn't complete the PROMISE program, he was eventually transferred out of Westglades Middle School to an alternative school.

Gualtieri said Cruz's behavioral problems date back to pre-kindergarten.

Broward County Public Schools reported that 1,942 students were in the PROMISE program in 2017. The school district said only 46 students committed three or more PROMISE incidents, and nearly 90 percent didn't re-offend.

Cruz killed 14 students and three faculty members during the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

 Gualtieri partly blamed Cruz's late mother for the mass shooting.

   "His mother was an enabler," Gualtieri said. "His mother contributed to this significantly. He wanted to buy a gun and the school said he shouldn't have a gun. The mother said if he wants to have a gun, let him have a gun."  

So far, the commission has made five recommendations related to the PROMISE program, including that police should have access to PROMISE program records so that when they're debating whether to arrest a student who's committed a minor crime, such as stealing a shirt from the mall, they'll be able to look at the database and see if the student has already participated in a pre-arrest diversion program.

"There needs to be a central repository so good, well-informed decisions can be made," Gualtieri said.

The commission also recommends limiting the number of times students can participate in pre-arrest diversion programs like PROMISE and that there should be consistency among pre-arrest diversion programs.

"You don't want a kid that is getting five, six, seven diversions, because that is a problem," Gualtieri said.

The commission also concluded that the PROMISE program wasn't responsible for the mass shooting.

"It's not relevant to the outcome (and) had no bearing on Cruz's ability to buy or possess a firearm," Gualtieri said.

Gualtieri said there is still much work to be done in the next two days, and one of the things they want to look at is behavioral threat assessments. 

He said they should be more proactive in Broward County, not so much reactive as they are now. 

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