Teachers and students at Astronaut High School in Titusville, Florida, are probably alive today because Sheriff Scott Israel and his intrepid men aren’t in charge of ensuring their safety. An art teacher at the school perceived a threat from one of her students and reported him to the school’s administrators. After further investigation, the student was found to be a credible threat and a
likely possible attack on the school was averted. Astronaut High administrators let parents know about the near miss last week…one year after the threat was discovered.
Why did administrators wait so long to let parents know of the threat they’d discovered?
School leaders said they put off telling parents about the incident because “we were asked by law enforcement not to publicly disclose anything during their open investigation.”
Parents might think that the only reason they’re hearing about the incident even now is because of the Parkland shooting and subsequent revelations of the utter sh!tshow that was the school’s and law enforcement’s handling of the shooter, both before and during the attack, but we couldn’t possibly comment.
We know. You’re thinking, Thank goodness the school took the teacher’s concerns seriously, though, and got law enforcement involved!
Hold on there.
District spokesman Matt Reed said an initial internal investigation by the school, consisting of a few hours of questioning by the Astronaut guidance counselor and vice principal, cleared the student of any suspicions. …
The guidance counselor at Astronaut, Monique Muldowney, told the art teacher via email that, after talking to the student, she did not believe the boy was threat. Vice Principal Jamie Russell told investigators “he was typical goofy kid who wants attention and he did not believe the threats were that serious.”
School officials did not tell district staff or its assigned security resource officer about the incident, and did not search the student’s locker or backpack. The student did not have a history of disciplinary problems, according to the school district.
Fortunately, though, the art teacher did mention the situation to her husband.
By chance, Reed said, a few days later, the teacher who reported the incident mentioned it to her husband who worked at Parrish Medical Center, where a shooting had unfolded the year before, and he contacted the Titusville Police Department with the alleged threat.
“He felt the school had downplayed the potential seriousness of what took place,” detective Sara Macskassy wrote in her report.
Upon further investigation of the art student and a friend, the Titusville PD found more than reasonable suspicion.
Police found that the two 17-year-old male students — whom FLORIDA TODAY is not naming because they are minors — had the “clear ability” to carry out an attack on the school with an arsenal that one of them had hidden in his bedroom. According to police records obtained by FLORIDA TODAY, the stockpile included .22-caliber rifles, a .380 pistol, loaded magazines, homemade axes, knives and machetes as well as improvised gas masks and bulletproof vests.
A police search of the boys’ cellphones also found messages, laced with racial slurs and misogynistic comments, about school shootings and pictures from the Columbine High School massacre.
Both students have since been expelled. The art student is on probation and his friend is performing community service. They’ve been threatened with arrest if they set foot on school property again. And Brevard schools are now handling reports of threats differently.
School leaders said the incident at Astronaut High School served as a catalyst to beef up security measures and procedures at all Brevard schools over the last year. If a threat is reported, schools are now required to immediately contact the police and district security.
All of which only serves to demonstrate that teachers and students can’t rely on school administrators or police to guarantee their safety. If one of these two decides to go Nikolas Cruz and attack, the threat of arrest for trespassing likely won’t provide much of a deterrent. And even if the school’s resource officer mounts a non-Broward-like response, he can’t be everywhere. A lot of people can be killed or wounded depending on where in the school the incident happens.
Under the state’s new gun control law, teachers will now have the option of arming themselves to protect themselves and their students. If, that is, they’re willing to undergo the 132 hours of training the state mandates in order to keep and bear arms on campus.
We’re all our own first responders. The sooner we realize that, the fewer casualties we’ll endure in designated gun-free zones.