Some Parkland teachers say staff removals are 'ripping' the school apart

The community of Parkland, Florida, wants someone to answer for the chain of events that allowed a gunman to...

Posted: Nov 28, 2018 7:46 AM
Updated: Nov 28, 2018 7:46 AM

The community of Parkland, Florida, wants someone to answer for the chain of events that allowed a gunman to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this year.

But not everyone is happy with who's being held accountable.

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On Tuesday, Stoneman Douglas teachers, staff and students protested the removals of three assistant principals and one security specialist.

Broward County Public Schools announced on Monday that Assistant Principals Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter Jr. and Denise Reed, and Security Specialist Kelvin Greenleaf would be reassigned to other administrative locations in the district.

The decision has some teachers up in arms, history teacher Greg Pittman said. By removing the administrators, he said the district is disrupting the school year and tearing apart the community when it is still trying to heal.

"They continue ripping out the stitches by tearing everything up," he said. "That is not helping the school stay together."

Before classes on Tuesday, dozens of teachers waved signs that read, "Stop Revictimizing Us." Some wore shirts in the school's maroon and white colors that read, "Teachers Strong."

Later in the day, students students staged two peaceful walk-outs at different times, chanting, "We want them back" as they marched outside. About 30 students took part in a sit-in in the school's Student Services Office, the district said in a statement.

The incidents were peaceful and no disciplinary measures were planned, officials with Broward Schools said, adding that "BCPS supports our students' and employees' rights to express their views during peaceful and lawful protests,"

Pittman said staffers were summoned by text message to a meeting Monday afternoon where they learned the news from a district representative.

"If these people were such a problem, why didn't they take them out prior to the school year?" he said.

When staffers asked why they were being reassigned, Pittman said they were given the same reason the district provided in a press release, which pointed to investigation findings.

Earlier this month, investigators from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission presented the findings about the staff's response to the February 14 shooting and preceding events. The hearings revealed communication breakdowns among law enforcement and school staff as the shooting unfolded. The commission also heard about overlooked warning signs regarding alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz.

The district said the decision to reassign the staffers was based on information presented at the hearings -- but it did not provide specifics.

AP government teacher Jeff Foster sat out the demonstration. But he said he loves the reassigned staffers and "feels bad for all of them." Foster said he worked under Morford and Reed, both of him he described as helpful and professional.

Reed had spent most of her time since the shooting trying to ensure that the staff had all the emotional support they needed, he said. She set up workshops and brought in mental health professionals to aid in the recovery of staff members and their immediate family.

Porter was loved by the students, and seemed to be on track to become a principal in the near future, Foster said.

Nonetheless, some skipped Tuesday's protests because they didn't agree with them.

"The teachers protesting outside this morning do not represent the majority of our staff," English teacher Darren Levine told CNN.

The announcements mark the latest fallout from the public safety hearings.

In addition, former Capt. Jan Jordan with the Broward County Sheriff's Department resigned and Parkland District Sgt. Brian Miller was placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal review of his response to the shooting at the school, the department said.

The shooting has also prompted the FBI to pledge to overhaul its public tip-line system.

The bureau faced criticism and promised a review after it revealed that Cruz had been previously flagged for violence via tips from the public.

In a letter to the head of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission that was released Monday, the bureau said it is increasing permanent staff to the Public Access Line division by adding 12 supervisory special agent positions and 50 professional staff positions.

The bureau is adding more layers of oversight personnel and a new two-tiered intake system for handling tip-line calls, according to the letter.

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