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A federal appeals court has affirmed the dismissal of litigation filed against Broward County and five public officials by students who survived the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed by a gunman.
Nikolas Cruz shot and killed the 17 and injured 17 others during his six-minute rampage on Feb. 14, 2018.
Fifteen students who were present that day sued the county and public officials “on the theory that their response to the school shooting was so incompetent” it violated their constitutional rights, according to Friday’s ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in L.S. ex rel. et al. v. Scot Peterson, Jan Jordan, et al.
The shooting “caused traumatic harm to many more bystanders, including the plaintiffs, 15 students who were present and allege psychological injuries,” the ruling said. They allege “the Parkland tragedy was exacerbated by government blunders before and during the shooting,” it said.
“The Broward County Sheriff’s Office failed to act on the ‘many dozens of calls’ it received that warned of Cruz’s dangerous propensities. Although Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie knew that Cruz might be dangerous and Runcie was warned that the school had inadequate security, neither official attempted to improve school security,” the ruling said.
“And Scot Peterson, the police officer in charge of school security was nicknamed ‘Rod’ — short for ‘retired on duty’ —for his ‘lackadaisical … approach.’”
The U.S. District Court in Miami dismissed the case and was affirmed by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
The students were not in a custodial relationship with the defendants, the appeals panel’s ruling said.
“Ordinarily there are no custodial relationships in the public-school system, even if officials are aware of potential dangers or have expressed an intent to provide aid on school grounds,” the ruling said.
In addition, the students did not allege any “arbitrary” or “conscience-shocking” conduct and failed to state a “failure-to-train” claim, it said, in affirming the lower court’s ruling.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.
The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a dispute about how the state’s sovereign immunity law should be applied in a case filed against the School Board of Broward County by parents and victims of the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.