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Parkland dad: It should never happen again

A race for Broward County School Board, with two political newcomers challenging a sitting member, is fiercely personal after the Parkland school shooting.

Posted: Aug 30, 2018 7:56 PM
Updated: Aug 30, 2018 8:15 PM

Campaign signs sprout from the ground here at Northwest Regional Library, an early voting site in Coral Springs, Florida. Standing in front of the polls, two candidates on the ballot are having a conversation.

"The tragedy happened six months ago," the candidate for the District 4 seat on the Broward County School Board, Lori Alhadeff, says. "School started, and we need to make those changes now. We can't make another mistake."

"If we get on the board together, we'll both bring that energy that will impact all the schools around the county," the candidate for the District 8 seat, Ryan Petty, replies. "We'll get this. We'll get the change made."

The November midterms will determine whether Democrats or Republicans are destined to control Congress for the next two years, and most of the nation's attention has been focused on the House and Senate seats that are up for grabs.

But the school board race in Broward County, Florida, is a reminder that local politics are often just as passionate -- and just as controversial.

The mass shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, has thrust the issues of school safety, mental health and gun violence into the forefront of the race.

Petty, Donna Korn and Elijah Manley are running in the nonpartisan yet politically charged race for the District 8 at-large seat on the board. All three have faced criticism for some of their comments or actions. Alhadeff, who lost her daughter Alyssa in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is running for the open District 4 seat. For all four candidates, the race is personal.

The primary election takes place on August 28. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, he or she wins the seat. If not, the two candidates with the most votes will face a run-off election on November 6.

Korn, a single mother of three and a former teacher, has held the countywide seat for seven years. Republican Gov. Rick Scott appointed her to the position, but she switched from the GOP to no affiliation this year. Korn has received big endorsements from the Broward Democratic Party and the local newspaper, the Sun Sentinel.

The incumbent candidate faced criticism from families of the Parkland victims after her comments during a district-wide meeting on August 9. In the meeting, Korn said that the district was coming off of an "amazing school year," according to a tweet by the district's director of school safety and security, April Schentrup, who also lost her child in the Parkland shooting.

In a statement following the meeting, Korn said her words were "poorly chosen." She said she intended to acknowledge the district's achievements "and not disregard the pain and loss" from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.

Stand With Parkland, a group made up of the shooting victims' family members, has called for the entire school board to be replaced.

"I can only imagine that if I lost a child, I would be looking for someone to be responsible for that," Korn told CNN. "Nikolas Cruz is responsible, but I think sometimes we just feel like we need to keep reaching beyond, and I understand where they're coming from. But as a board member, I couldn't feel any more deeply for those families."

The school board was recently criticized after canceling a pilot program to test out metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas right before the school year began. Korn says the board made the decision after school safety consulting firm Safe Havens International brought up potential risks associated with the plan.

"We don't want to jump so fast that we're doing something that isn't having the impact that we need it to have," Korn told CNN. "It has to actually have an impact on making our schools more safe, and not just feel like they are, they actually have to be."

Korn says the board has agreed on the necessity of a crisis line for students to call in emergencies, approved funding for upgraded security cameras, and are asking taxpayers to vote for half a million dollars in additional resources that will go toward a goal of having one school resource officer, or armed guardian, for every thousand students.

She says that they aim to have single point of entry in place at all schools in the county in 2019.

But some say the board's actions aren't enough.

Neither Petty nor Manley has held a political office -- Petty is a telecom executive, and Manley, a sophomore student at Broward College -- but what they do possess is frustration with how the board has handled concerns from parents and students.

Petty's 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was one of 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"She was an angel. She was our baby girl, and we miss her a lot," Petty told CNN. "Like most parents that have experienced this kind of tragedy, you want to try to explain it. You want to try to understand it. You want to try to understand how something like this could happen."

After the shooting, the Florida Legislature established the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, a committee tasked with investigating the attack. Gov. Scott appointed Petty to serve on the committee alongside public officials and law enforcement officers.

Petty -- who is a Republican and supporter of 2nd Amendment rights -- has been endorsed by the Broward Republican Executive Committee. Despite his party affiliation and the endorsement, he says school safety shouldn't be about political labels.

"The gun debate comes to the foreground immediately, and it's a divisive issue," Petty explained. "Ironically, by focusing on school safety, we've actually gotten more gun control legislation passed in Florida than any group that's just been solely advocating for gun control. That's the irony of this."

Petty, as well as Manley and Korn, have come out against arming teachers, although a bill signed by Scott after the shooting would allow some teachers and staff to carry guns in school.

Petty's campaign took a hit about a month before the polls opened. In late July, the Sun Sentinel reported that Petty had posted tweets, mostly from 2008 to 2013, that contained controversial remarks about guns, gays, minorities, unions, Jews, Muslims, liberals and public education.

When asked about the tweets, Petty told CNN that he never intended to have a political career, and the comments were taken out of context.

"It's easy to pull words out, look at them in isolation and ascribe whatever meaning you want to them," Petty said. "Clearly, that's not what I stand for."

Manley, a recent graduate from Fort Lauderdale High School, has attended Broward County School Board meetings since he was in 8th grade. At 19, he is the youngest and most progressive candidate running for the District 8 seat. He says he was motivated to run because the current board lacks a student voice.

"I want to provide younger people with the chance to have our ideas heard and respected," Manley told CNN.

In addition to improving school security, he says the board should also address socioeconomic issues.

"Our school board needs to work with other government officials and other government entities in Broward County to work hard to ensure that poverty is not an issue for our students," he said.

Manley began his campaign before the shooting at Stoneman Douglas and says the incident changed the way he views politics in Broward County and his role as a candidate.

"It has never been like this before," Manley said. "Now we see that younger people's voice is being actually considered as part of the political process. I think that's going to be a big part of the upcoming midterm elections, and I think it's going to be a big part of the 2020 presidential elections as well."

On August 24, four days before the primary election, the Sun Sentinel reported that Manley spent thousands of campaign dollars on restaurants and Uber rides as well as a $2,000 consulting fee to a person with a false identity.

When asked about the article and if he worried that it would hurt his credibility as a candidate, Manley told CNN, "As a first-time candidate, I made a mistake in reporting information. That is common for first-time campaigners."

All three candidates bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the table, but they share a common goal: making schools safer for students. They each agree school shootings are preventable.

"The students are a vital source of information," Petty said. "We say 'if you see something, say something,' but as adults and as a school district, we have to do something. When they see something and say something to us, we have to act."

"How do we see what's happened and make sure it doesn't happen again?" Korn said. "That's our job. Our job isn't to say, what could have happened, it's what happened and how do we move forward? How do we do good by every single one of our kids?"

"We have absolutely no more time to wait," Manley said. "We've waited long enough, and now we're dealing with a crisis in our county. This is our lives, this is our education, this is our future, and we deserve to make the decisions on how our future should move forward."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 122812

Reported Deaths: 2287
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin32050965
Ramsey13185346
Dakota9146133
Anoka7955148
Stearns525534
Washington517267
Scott315634
Olmsted305029
St. Louis258563
Wright224714
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Blue Earth19587
Carver16867
Rice15629
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Kandiyohi15194
Mower148912
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Lyon9146
Waseca9089
Crow Wing86821
Chisago8312
Benton8265
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Otter Tail7206
Steele7162
Todd6922
Itasca67117
Nicollet66417
Freeborn6314
Douglas5923
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Le Sueur5825
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McLeod5663
Watonwan5634
Pine5040
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Swift1911
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Pope1420
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Wilkin1224
Lake1000
Norman930
Mahnomen911
Grant864
Marshall861
Clearwater740
Red Lake562
Traverse490
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Kittson270
Cook110

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 106765

Reported Deaths: 1522
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk17906281
Woodbury678786
Johnson562330
Black Hawk517196
Linn5020123
Dubuque463852
Scott402433
Story383217
Dallas328843
Pottawattamie294044
Sioux228211
Buena Vista219512
Marshall192236
Webster166414
Plymouth153324
Wapello147062
Clinton134625
Muscatine132357
Crawford130312
Cerro Gordo122223
Des Moines12099
Warren11436
Carroll10238
Jasper101934
Henry9735
Marion92010
Tama89336
Lee8689
Dickinson6837
Wright6791
Delaware6728
Boone6718
Bremer6117
Washington60611
Mahaska60122
Harrison5628
Jackson5253
Lyon5117
Benton4971
Louisa49015
Clay4814
Hamilton4313
Winneshiek4299
Poweshiek42811
Hardin4215
Winnebago41916
Kossuth4150
Floyd41211
Jones4053
Emmet39314
Buchanan3893
Cedar3795
Iowa3756
Franklin36918
Guthrie36414
Cherokee3622
Sac3603
Clayton3503
Page3450
Shelby3411
Butler3402
Fayette3372
Madison3372
Mills3341
Allamakee3248
Chickasaw3191
Clarke3083
Cass3022
Palo Alto2831
Grundy2794
Humboldt2793
Hancock2724
Calhoun2573
Howard2458
Osceola2450
Monroe23711
Mitchell2270
Monona2261
Taylor2202
Union2083
Pocahontas2032
Appanoose1983
Jefferson1881
Lucas1796
Fremont1781
Ida1762
Greene1710
Van Buren1562
Davis1544
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