Broward County’s Broken Promise

by americansforclassAugust 1, 2018

The ‘PROMISE Program.’ Perhaps you have heard of it, maybe you haven’t. If you have, you are more than likely already aware of the dangers of the program. If you have not, now is the time to pay attention.

From 2011-2012, Broward County Public Schools had the highest number of student arrests in Florida. That all changed when Robert Runcie, the school system’s superintendent, implemented the PROMISE program in 2013.

The program, which is a hindrance to the students of public schools in Broward County, allows the school administrator to decide whether or not the behavior or misconduct from the student was worthy enough of having police step in.

In 2014, Runcie said, “We’re not going to continue to arrest our kids and put them in a position where they can’t recover. Once you have an arrest record, it becomes difficult to get scholarships, get a job, or go into the military.”

PROMISE stands for ‘Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education.’

Superintendent Runcie once worked in Chicago Public Schools under the leadership of Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

PROMISE has been praised by the Obama administration, which awarded the program $54 million in grants to improve the lives of students in poverty and students of color.

The Obama Administration’s Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder eventually took the PROMISE program and made it into a national guideline for other schools to follow.

Holder hailed the ‘PROMISE Program’ for doing away with “unnecessarily harsh discipline policies” for “really minor infractions” that would lead students to “feel unwelcome.”

With the new program in place, school-based arrest rates dropped significantly, shifting from 1,056 students getting arrested in 2011-2012 to 392 students getting arrested in the 2015-2016 school year.

The ‘PROMISE Program’ prevents law enforcement from getting involved in alcohol-related incidents, assault, threat, bullying, disruption on campus, drug use, possession, under the influence, drug paraphernalia, false accusation against school staff, fighting, mutual combat, harassment, thefts, trespassing, vandalism, or damage to property.

What’s left after sifting through that entire list of largely violent misconduct? Murder? Because that is what occurred as a result of this program on February 14, 2018.

Let’s face it. Had PROMISE never been instituted in the Broward County School System, the heinous act that took place in Parkland, Florida earlier this year most likely would have never taken place at all.

It is reported that the mass murderer who perpetrated the deadly February shooting had been transferred a total of six times in three years, but never expelled, taken in by police, or arrested. Could that have prevented the school shooting? Absolutely. Had he been arrested just once, he would most likely not have been allowed to purchase a firearm.

Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter Meadow in the shooting and now fighting for school safety, is concerned with the fact that the Broward County School System is not willing to holding the kids with bad behavior or serious misconduct accountable.

“The ‘PROMISE Program’ gives them multiple bites from the apple, meaning multiple misdemeanors a year,” says Pollack. “This school system is more worried about the kids getting arrested than the kids going to school to learn. Where are their rights?”

Pollack is right. Why has the school system devoted all of its attention to those that are breaking the rules? Have they not learned from their mistakes? Because of their inability to protect those that need it most within the school system, 14 students and three teachers lost their lives in February.

“We can all agree that kids deserve a second chance, but these students that are doing these things are not going to learn if they keep receiving chance after chance. They won’t become role model citizens that way,” said Pollack.

Many parents and residents in Broward County say that they have noticed a behavioral change in students attending schools in the county. With no repercussions for the actions the students take, many are repeating the same crime.

No longer shall students committing crimes control the narrative where other students are placed in harm’s way. When will Broward County acknowledge their negligence of school safety and end the madness? Will it take another school shooting? We pray that it does not.

It’s time to #FixIt.