Blog : Gun Violence

Where Does School Safety Stand One Year After The Parkland Shooting?

The New York Times | Margaret Kramer and Jennifer Harlan | 

The Parkland students became a force for gun control legislation and boosted the youth vote. Here’s how they changed America’s response to mass shootings.

On Feb. 14, 2018, a former student slaughtered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The next day, David Hogg, a student who survived the attack, expressed his frustration at the pattern of political inaction that seems to follow mass shootings in the United States. He was not surprised that there had been another school shooting, he said, and that fact alone “says so much about the current state that our country is in, and how much has to be done.”

“We need to do something,” he said. In the course of the next year, students would change the way the nation handles mass shootings, spurring new gun legislation and school safety measures, and holding to account the adults they felt had failed them.

Here’s a look at where they made those changes happen, and where they were disappointed.

With Parkland, it was the students who set the agenda. Their openness about their pain made them formidable leaders of the movement for gun control, and their displays of strength and utter grief struck a chord with a nation numbed by repeated acts of violence.

In the weeks after the shooting, busloads of Stoneman Douglas students took their case to the Florida capital and to Washington. With a rallying cry of “Never Again,” they gathered support from other young people and activists, and their March For Our Lives campaign spurred huge rallies and hundreds of protests, including a nationwide school walkout.

The movement brought youth activism to a new age — finding global power in social media and pushing public officials to acknowledge their accountability.

Stoneman Douglas students and parents were outraged by what they viewed as gross incompetence on the part of school and law enforcement officials. Video showed that a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school did not enter the building as the attack unfolded. Seven other deputies remained outside as gunshots rang out, a state commission found.

And in January, Florida’s new Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, suspended Sheriff Scott Israel for his “neglect of duty” and “incompetence.”

In the case of Mr. Cruz, the warning signs were many. There were the boasts about killing animals, the expulsion, the stalking of a female classmate, the repeated calls from his mother to the police. School counselors and a sheriff’s deputy decided at one point that he should be forcibly committed for psychiatric evaluation, only to apparently change their minds the next day. Multiple tips to the F.B.I. were left uninvestigated — one woman told the bureau’s tip line she was worried about Mr. Cruz going “into a school and just shooting the place up.” At that time, there was no law in Florida that would have prevented Mr. Cruz from buying a gun or would have allowed the police to take away his weapon. A gun control bill the state passed in March now allows law enforcement — with judicial approval — to bar a person deemed dangerous from owning guns for up to a year.

State legislatures, both Republican- and Democratic-controlled, passed 76 gun control laws in the past year — from bans on bump stocks and caps on magazine sizes to new minimum-age requirements and expanded background checks. Among the victories for gun control advocates was an omnibus bill in Florida that raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm in the state to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days. In all, more than half the states passed at least one gun control measure in 2018, with Washington and New York joining the trend in 2019.

At the same time, there were significantly fewer new state laws expanding gun rights in 2018 than the year before, according to an end-of-year report by the national advocacy group Giffords. Data provided by the N.R.A. also indicated that the number of enacted gun control measures outnumbered pro-gun measures for the first time in at least six years.

Read the Entire New York Times Article Here 

The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law applaud these students. Our lawyers negotiated the historic settlements for the wrongful deaths and injured survivors of the Virginia Tech Massacre, which valued in excess of $11 Million.  The settlements established a foundation in their honor that continues to advocate for safe schools and gun control, which we continue to represent.

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KEEPING STUDENTS SAFE: A GUIDE ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR & PREVENT VIOLENT SITUATIONS AT SCHOOL

Community for Accredited Online Schools (CFAOS) is a comprehensive accreditation resource that provides prospective students and families with the tools needed to make well-informed decisions about their education.

One of the tools provided by CFAOS is a guide packed with information and advice to help keep students safe in school. The guide covers a broad range of school-related violence, turns the spotlight on shootings and gun crime, and has an expert Q&A on the issue of schools and gun control. They also focus on the countless causes of school violence.

The guide includes top resources for students and parents to turn to for further support. As school violence continues to be such an important concern, please view their guide here: https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/violence-prevention-schools/ 

 

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Bullying Led to Fatal Shooting of Bobby McKeithen

The New York Times | October 29, 2018 | By Sandra E. GarciaAndrew R. Chow and Matt Stevens

A student at a high school near Charlotte, N.C., fatally shot a schoolmate on Monday morning during a fight before classes began, sending dozens of horrified students fleeing for safety, the authorities said.

Officials said that bullying that had “escalated out of control” had led to the fatal encounter at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but would not say who had done the bullying.

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell, a patrol commander for the Matthews Police Department, at a news conference. “Several people knew about it — not knew there was going to be a shooting, but knew there was going to be a likelihood of some sort of altercation this morning.”

The police said that Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at the school, was fighting with Bobby McKeithen, 16, a sophomore, in a hallway after 7 a.m., when Mr. Cuffie shot Mr. McKeithen. They did not say what kind of gun was used or how many times Mr. McKeithen was shot.

Mr. Cuffie was charged with first-degree murder on Monday afternoon, Captain Tyrrell said. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

Bobby McKeithen, 16, a 10th grader at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., was shot to death at school early Monday.

“We have literally dozens if not hundreds of kids who were in the hallway when this fight took place who witnessed one of their own be shot and fall to the floor before they ran away in a panic,” said Clayton Wilcox, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent.

He said the school system was “incredibly saddened by the fact that we had a loss of life on one of our campuses today.”

In a statement late Monday, Mr. McKeithen’s family thanked the community for its prayers and asked for privacy, while also acknowledging that the “tragedy has impacted and changes our lives forever.”

“As parents we never expect to send our children to school and they not return home,” the statement said. “The pain that we are experiencing is a pain that no mother or no father should ever have to experience.”

In a telephone interview, Mario Black, the founder of the Million Youth March of Charlotte and a friend of the McKeithen family, described Mr. McKeithen as a young man who was respectful and outgoing. He loved to dance, was a football fan and could often be found on FaceTime with his friends, Mr. Black said.

Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at Butler High School, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing.

“It’s been an emotional day,” he said. “You hear about it other places, but for it to be here at the front door, it’s unbelievable.”

A school resource officer called the police Monday morning, saying that he was with the victim and that he had the perpetrator in custody, Captain Tyrrell said during the news conference. The school, its hallways crowded with students before classes began, immediately went into lockdown, according to the police.

“It’s been an extremely tragic event for us here in Matthews,” Capt. Tyrrell said, adding that the investigation was continuing.

Joseph Hanks, 32, had just dropped his son off at school after 7 a.m. when he saw people yelling, screaming and running out of the school.

“I saw a police officer in a full-blown run coming toward me, running as fast as he can,” Mr. Hanks said in a phone interview. “I heard what sounded like someone come over the P.A. system; I believe they were talking about the school lockdown.”

“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell of the Matthews Police Department.

Mr. Hanks immediately started thinking of how to get his son and himself out of the area as quickly as possible. His son, Brennan Timmons, 15, had made it to the school’s entrance when he heard the officer yelling to leave. Brennan ran back to his father’s car.

“He told me, ‘There’s an active shooter in the school,’” Mr. Hanks said. “The other kids were yelling that there was a shooter, and everyone was pouring out, trying to get away from the school.”

After the shooting, many students were picked up by their parents, but classes remained in session for students who had not been picked up, Mr. Wilcox said. He added that school would be canceled at Butler High on Tuesday.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 dead, Mr. Wilcox proposed to county commissioners a $1.5 billion budget that included salary raises for teachers and funds for school safety measures. The budget allocated $9 million for hardened doors, two locksmiths, perimeter fencing, additional locks, glass reinforcement and classroom surveillance cameras. The budget also allocated $600,000 for nine security positions that included five police officers.

The budget was approved in June.

On Monday, the police could not immediately say how a student was able to obtain a firearm and bring it onto campus.

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “heartbroken to hear about today’s school violence.” He added that it was “critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools.”

Mr. Wilcox, the superintendent, said, “We are going to look into all of these things and make sure it never happens again.”

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences.

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SLAIN UNIVERSITY OF UTAH ATHLETE HAD TOLD SCHOOL OF EX-BOYFRIEND’S HARASSMENT

The Washington Post | By Matt Bonesteel and Cindy Boren | October 24, 2018 7:40AM

Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah track and field athlete who was found shot to death Monday night in a car outside a campus residence hall, had broken off her relationship with the prime suspect when she discovered that he was a registered sex offender.

Melvin Rowland, 37, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a church near downtown Salt Lake City and McCluskey’s mother told university police that he had been harassing her 21-year-old daughter since their Oct. 9 breakup.

University police chief Dale Brophy said in a Tuesday news conference that officers could not find Rowland in the days leading up to the shooting and added that Rowland had walked away from a halfway house for parolees. However, a Department of Corrections official told the Salt Lake Tribune that officials knew where he was living. The official added that university police had not passed along information that McCluskey had accused Rowland, who had repeatedly been returned to prison for parole violations, of harassing her.

“We have no notification of any of that,” Kaitlin Felsted, a spokeswoman for the DOC, told the Tribune, and the department he had been living at the Salt Lake City address listed on the sex offender registry.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, McCluskey’s mother, Jill, described her daughter’s final moments.

“[Monday] night a little before 9 p.m., she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,” she said. “Suddenly, I heard her yell, “No, no, no!” I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open, and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground.”

University police responded to a report of a possible abduction about 8:20 p.m., and after reports of gunshots, they discovered McCluskey’s body around 1:30 a.m. in a car parked outside the south tower of the Medical Plaza.

Jill McCluskey detailed Rowland’s harassment in her statement.

“He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history,” she said in the statement obtained by Shara Park of KSL-TV. “Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back. She blocked his and his friends’ phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.”

Lauren McCluskey competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon for the University of Utah. (University of Utah photo)

Police did not comment on how Rowland obtained the gun and was asked whether enough had been done to protect McCluskey. “I want the answer to that question as well,” Brophy said, “and when we have it, I’ll share it with you.”

Rowland was described by Felsted as being “not fully compliant” with his parole, but his violations were not serious enough to warrant an automatic return to prison. “He was working with his agent to get through those” violations, Felsted said.

Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Wash., who was majoring in communications, competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon. According to her team bio, she ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the pentathlon (3,181 points) and was a named Pac-12 all-Academic team honorable mention in 2017. Her mother said she was set to graduate in May and had a 3.75 grade-point average.

“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core. We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”

Read More at The Washington Post

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Lauren McCluskey.

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