The suspect linked to a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., was denied the therapeutic services needed for disabled students, according to a report released Friday.
In the year leading up to the Feb. 14 rampage that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, suspect Nikolas Cruz asked to return to a special education campus, but school officials “fumbled his request,” the Sun-Sentinel reported, citing an independent review commissioned by the Broward County public school system.
The consultant, the Collaborative Educational Network of Tallahassee, suggested that Cruz could have been offered more help in his final two years in high school leading up to the Valentine’s Day massacre, the report said.
Two-thirds of the 70-page report, titled “Independent Review of ‘NC’s’ Education Record,” was blacked out when released, but the contents became readable when copied and pasted to another document file.
The review identified “two specific instances” where school officials did not follow the requirements of Florida statute or federal laws that govern students with disabilities, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
School officials misstated Cruz’s options when he was faced with removal from the Florida high school his junior, which led him to refuse special education services, according to the report.
When Cruz was asked to return to the therapeutic environment of Cross Creek School for special education students, the district “did not follow through,” the report said.
“Upon entering the room and seeing the Cross Creek representatives, the student immediately became upset and verbally aggressive. He refused to sit at the table, angrily repeating that he would not go back to Cross Creek and that he wanted only to stay at Stoneman. He intended to graduate from the school,” the report said, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The consultant’s report revealed for the first time that Cruz himself requested to return to special education, but his request “went nowhere,” the Sentinel reported.
The review added that Cruz had no school counseling or other special education services in the 14 months leading up to the Feb. 14 rampage, in part because of the school’s errors.
Three days after he was forced by the district to withdraw from Stoneman Douglas High, he purchased an AR-15 rifle. Then, a year after his ejection from the school, he returned for the mass shooting.
The district treated him “like a general education student” for his final two years, but even those students should have access to counseling and mental health services, the report said.
Other than the errors, the consultant found that the district largely followed the law in providing special education to the shooter starting when he was 3 years old, the paper reported.
But Cruz’s attorneys called the report a “whitewash” commissioned by the district to absolve it of responsibility for its handling of Cruz’s psychological problems, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“I think that the report is an attempt by the school board to absolve itself of any liability or responsibility for all the missed opportunities that they had in this matter,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant public defender.
Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted.