Photo courtesy of Andrew Pollack
Books & Culture

A review of Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students, by Andrew Pollack and Max Eden (Post Hill Press, 336 pages, $27)

Not by Negligence, But by Policy

A “national conversation” about guns is beside the point. We need to rethink wrongheaded school disciplinary rules.


- September 10th, 2019
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Andrew Pollack is a man on a mission.

His beautiful and beloved daughter Meadow was one of the 17 students murdered by a deranged former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, and Pollock is determined to expose the lenient school disciplinary policies that enabled the killer. His reasoning is simple: “I am not doing this to get famous, I am doing this so no family ever again has to feel the way my family feels,” he tweeted.

Due to the lax PROMISE policies spelled out in his new book, Why Meadow Died, many schools across the nation have become “no-go zones” for law enforcement, making it only a matter of time before another ticking time-bomb like the Parkland shooter goes off. The PROMISE program was put in place to keep students out of the criminal justice system, but critics say the policies have led to a culture of leniency.

(As a rule, American Greatness typically will not publish the names of mass-shooters. Throughout the book, Pollack refers to the shooter by his criminal case number, “18-1958.”) The book was co-written with Max Eden, an education researcher and journalist.

As happens in the immediate aftermath of every shooting, Democrat politicians, activists—and in this case Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie—rushed in front of news cameras to force the country to have a “national conversation” on guns.

Pollack stays out of the gun debate, but he has lots to say about the lax disciplinary policies championed by the grossly incompetent and corrupt Israel and Runcie.

“Broward schools put this MONSTER in class with my beautiful daughter,” Pollack wrote in a plaintive tweet Monday.

Pollack and Eden are not alone. Teachers, students, and parents in Parkland have worked with him for over a year to expose the sick system that allowed a dangerous lunatic to run wild.

“The reason he murdered my daughter and sixteen other people was that the system around him was even sicker than he was,” Pollack quips in the book’s preface.

And yes, 18-1958 was one sick pup. His birth mother, Brenda Woodward, was a career criminal and a drug addict. The book notes how she “had been arrested 28 times for crimes ranging from drugs and car theft to weapons possession, burglary, and domestic violence and was using crack while pregnant with her eldest child, Danielle.”

Woodward was also arrested for possessing crack while pregnant with her shooter son, who was adopted by Roger and Lynda Cruz in 1996, when he was still a newborn.

His biological sister, Danielle, has been arrested 17 times and is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence on charges that include the attempted murder of a police officer. But enough about their terrible genes.

The New York Post this week published eye-opening, never-before-seen information from the shooter’s school records:

Westglades students and staff had never seen anyone like [the shooter]. One student, Paige, recalled the time that she met [him]. They were standing outside their classroom waiting for their teacher to open the door, and [he] offered her a hug, which Paige accepted. Their teacher later pulled Paige aside and warned her, “Don’t touch him. He just got caught jerking off.”

If something frustrated [the shooter], he would curse and threaten anyone nearby. He would hide behind corners and doors, jump out and scream at people, and then cackle at their fear. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, he would burst into maniacal laughter.

Another student, Sarah, recalled a time when he threw his chair across a classroom. Later, she saw him sitting outside the classroom with his desk tied down.

[The shooter’s] torture and killing of animals became a source of pride for him as he interacted with other students. One student, Devin, recalled that, although he tried to avoid [him], [the shooter] would approach him almost every day and ask, “Would you like to see videos of me skinning animals?” Devin always declined, but [he] kept asking.

[The shooter’s] records suggest that his reign of terror at Westglades Middle School began halfway through his seventh-grade year, in February of 2013. For the next calendar year, [he] was suspended every other day. Why did the school allow him to remain enrolled despite his daily, deranged behavior for a full year? Not by negligence, but by policy.

Because he was enrolled in the PROMISE program (which Runcie initially denied), 18-1958 was eventually sent to an alternative school where he continued to exhibit troubling behavior.  Inexplicably, after about a year and a half, he was transferred back to MSD High School where he mainstreamed into regular classrooms and was allowed to join the Junior ROTC.

At MSD, his deeply disturbing, threatening behavior continued, including stalking and harassing an ex-girlfriend and attacking her boyfriend. When parents complained about having 18-1958 in the same classroom as their child, the school responded by changing their schedules, the book notes.

At one point, five students provided statements to Assistant Principal Porter that 18-1958 had threatened to kill people and brought weapons to school, and expressed concern that he might bring a weapon to school and kill somebody the next time he got angry. Administrators allegedly searched his backpack and found bullets (or bullet casings).  As a consequence, administrators gave him a two-day internal suspension and imposed a “safety plan” that banned him from bringing a backpack to school.

Pollack summed up: They decided 18-1958 “was too dangerous to be allowed on campus with a backpack, but he should not be arrested.

Off campus, Sheriff Scott Israel applied the same philosophy of the PROMISE program to the streets, measuring success by “the kids we keep out of jail, not by the kids we put in jail.” Indeed, Broward County officers visited the Cruz home a total of 45 times for various matters—and no one was ever arrested, not even after 18-1958 allegedly shot a neighbor boy with his BB gun.

According to Robert Martinez, a recently retired school resource officer (SRO), district officials explicitly told SROs not to arrest students for felonies, in addition to PROMISE misdemeanors.

“We all knew some sort of tragedy like this was going to happen in Broward,” said Martinez. “You can’t just stop arresting kids without expecting something like this. As officers, our hands were tied.”

Even though the lax disciplinary policies have been exposed, Pollack and company continue to fight an uphill battle. Local bureaucrats have dug their heels in and brand everyone who doesn’t toe the politically correct line as “racist.”

“When anyone questioned them, these bureaucrats hid behind political correctness and accused critics of racism,” Pollack writes. “Even though these policies are doing terrible damage to minority students. Even though we were asking those questions because our children were murdered.”

Even worse, the dangerously wrongheaded PROMISE program that started in Broward County, metastasized to school districts all across the nation thanks to a “Dear Colleague Letter” written by former President Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan.

The purpose of the policy shift away from “zero tolerance” was to end the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which activists contended was based on the racial bias of teachers. The fact that black students were disciplined more frequently than white students, was evidence that teachers were engaged in racial discrimination, according to the social justice warriors. Under the new rules, white and black students had to be disciplined at the same rates and a ridiculously cumbersome “multi-tiered system of supports” was put into place.

One teacher explained why they stopped bothering to fill out paperwork that is required to send kids to the office.

We began to spend more time calling parents and doing paperwork for troublemakers than planning lessons for the children who wanted to learn. Believe me, no matter what people think about “kids these days,” some kids really do come to school to learn. With all this paperwork and principals who don’t want to process it anyway, the best we can do for the good kids is to just let the troublemakers disrupt the class and try to teach around them.

As a result, the policies looked like a roaring success in the schools that implemented them. On paper. In reality, countless schools across the nation have become raging dumpster fires of chaos and violence.

In a few school districts, unions allow teachers to voice their concerns about school disciplinary policies on an anonymous forum. The book highlights some of their complaints, which are a cri de coeur against the dangerous policies that have ruined their schools.

In Oklahoma City, a teacher wrote that they were told referrals would not require suspension “unless there was blood.”

A teacher in Buffalo, New York wrote, “I have never seen anything like it. The behavior is unreal. The students know they can get away with acting out because there are no real consequences . . . .”

Another teacher from Buffalo concurred. “Students are threatening teachers with violence and in many cases physically attacking teachers with little or no consequence.”

In Fresno, California, a teacher wrote, “students are allowed to throw rocks at teachers. When they are sent down to the office, they return moments later. Teachers are allowed to call teachers ‘niggas’ [and] break windows and classroom doors when they’re mad. A student was seen touching his privates and sexually harassing others and was not even suspended . . . .”

Meanwhile, national media reporters after Parkland “treated questions about the district’s discipline policies as matters to be debunked rather than investigated,” Eden notes in the book. “Their attitude, like Runcie’s, seemed to be that anything other than guns was a distraction.”

If you have children in school, Why Meadow Died is mandatory, hair-raising reading. Schools all across the nation have radically changed in the past 10 years, and many parents have no idea what’s going on in their kids’ classrooms.

President Trump has rescinded the “Dear Colleague Letter” that forced schools to adopt lenient disciplinary policies, but that doesn’t mean the school districts have to reverse the policies. It just means that parents can have a voice again.

In deep-blue school districts, the lax discipline and ensuing chaos will likely continue. Nevertheless, Pollack holds out hope that with the help of enlightened parents, districts that aren’t as “corrupt and morally challenged” as Broward will be able to overturn these dangerous policies.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact [email protected].

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