FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – More than 50 teachers chanted “bring them back” outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Tuesday morning, demanding the return of four administrators who were reassigned after a state commission’s investigation of the shooting that killed 17 people on Valentine’s Day.
The suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, 20, is due in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom later Tuesday for issues dealing with procedural motions. Cruz faces the death penalty if convicted of the massacre. Cruz’s lawyers say he would plead guilty to murder and attempted murder charges in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that.
Broward County Public Schools announced Monday that the three assistant principals and one security specialist were being placed in other administrative jobs. The statement didn’t say why they were being reassigned.
The decision followed the latest meeting of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. The school district said it is using material from the commission to improve school safety and student services.
The head of an association that represents three of the four administrators said they’ll sue the district to halt the reassignments.
Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association, said the administrators haven’t been told the reason for their reassignments, and that’s a violation of their due process rights.
“This is a political ploy. This is political scapegoating at its worst. They have not been informed of any wrongdoing. They have not been informed of any charges,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said the administrators were being targeted since they were “most engaged that day with the event.”
“They are easy to target, and yet ever since the tragedy and during the tragedy, they put their own lives on the line to save kids,” Maxwell said. “It’s absolutely devastating to them and their families, and now they are being victimized yet again.”
The three assistant principals were Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter Jr. and Denise Reed. The security specialist was Kelvin Greenleaf.
Two students told commission investigators that they had reported Cruz to an administrator for making threats, but felt they were not taken seriously. The students disagreed on whether they spoke to Morford or Principal Ty Thompson.
“We have been communicating all of this for almost nine months, as soon as we learned everything,” Guttenberg said. “It was only after they couldn’t ignore the video that they took action.”
Several Marjory Douglas Stoneman students said a walkout to protest the reassignments was being planned for Tuesday, but it was unclear whether that would happen.
Sophomore Samantha Deitsch said she’s torn.
“If the school board felt these people were to blame they would’ve fired them immediately because you don’t take the murder of 17 people lightly,” Deitsch said.
No trial date has been set for Cruz. He’s also charged with assaulting a corrections officer in the jail where he is being held without bail.