'We failed him,' retired ESE specialist says of Parkland school shooting suspect

Suspected school shooter wasn't ready for mainstream school, expert says

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

PARKLAND, Fla. - An ESE specialist who retired from Broward County Public Schools last year said the system failed Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.

"These kids are lost, and they need to feel like they belong," Dottie Provenzano said.  

Provenzano spent 42 years working with "lost" kids, and spent 11 years working as an ESE specialist with Broward County Public Schools before retiring last year.

"Kids that are troubled like this, they need to feel supported," she said.  

When Local 10 News reporter Bob Norman showed Provenzano Cruz's lengthy discipline summary from the Broward County School Board, she came to one conclusion.

"We failed him, and now we have 17 dead children because of a system that didn't work," Provenzano said. 

The records show that while a student at Westglades Middle School, Cruz was hit with disciplinary action 25 times for hurling insults, using profane language, fighting and disruptive behavior. 

The school board transferred him in February 2014 to Cross Creek School, which is for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students, where he got special care. 

But for unknown reasons, Cruz was later transferred to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

"Cross Creek never should have released him. He was not ready to be released," Provenzano said.  

Provenzano said the move was a recipe for disaster.

"It's a school of 3,000 students and, yes, he might have a social worker who can meet with him here and there, but he went from a highly structured environment where they're not even allowed to walk down the hall without an adult to saying, 'here you go,'" Provenzano said.  

The records also show that once at Stoneman Douglas, Cruz quickly became a problem student. He was disciplined five times for insults, using  profanity at staff, fighting and an assault.

"He makes the transition and has all these disciplinary issues after he gets there and nothing happened," Provenzano said. 

Ultimately, Cruz was transferred to an off-campus learning center on Feb. 8, 2017. 

"You feel this student was dumped?" Norman asked.

"I do," Provenzano said.  

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