CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. (WSVN) – Parents and community members packed J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs to voice their concerns about school safety in a Broward County Public Schools town hall meeting.
BCPS Superintendent Robert Runcie, BCPS School Board members, district staff and security consultants from Safe Havens International, a nonprofit campus safety organization, took questions from those in attendance beginning at 6:30 p.m., Monday.
Among those in attendance were the family members of the 17 victims who died in the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Emotions ran high as parents voiced their concerns to Runcie.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jamie Guttenberg, died in the mass shooting at MSD, did not hold back at the meeting.
“I can’t help but blame you,” Guttenberg said. “My daughter is dead, and this community is coming apart.”
Runcie said in response, “I know that no matter what we keep doing, I’ll keep hearing, ‘It’s not enough,’ and I know why I hear that, because I can’t bring your daughter back.”
Brian Katz, the department’s newly-named Chief of Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness, was also on hand. He took a moment to introduce himself to the community.
“I’m a parent of a child in the Broward school district,” Katz said. “I’m a graduate of South Broward High School. I’m not an outsider.”
Tony Montalto, who lost his daughter, Gina Montalto, in the MSD shooting, said, “Last year, I had to bury my daughter because of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”
Debbie Hixon, who lost her husband, Chris Hixon, in the massacre, asked about her son’s safety at the meeting.
Hixon said, “So that I can tell my special needs son, ‘I am safe in my school,’ because as you know, he said to you he doesn’t feel safe, and he thinks that I won’t come home like his dad didn’t come home.”
Max Schachter, who lost his son, Alex Schachter, in the MSD shooting, said, “I don’t think anybody wants to hear that it’s impossible to protect our schools from another gun attack.”
“That is unacceptable,” an attendee said. “I’m here for every student, every teacher in every zip code.”
While the meeting was designed for the community to receive an update on security upgrades made across the county since the MSD shooting, the security of Runcie’s job quickly became the most popular topic of conversation.
“It is inexcusable that we have such a lack of transparency and a lack of leadership in this district,” one attendee said.
“Just as strongly as you feel about getting rid of Bob Runcie, we feel just as strong that ain’t gonna happen,” a Runcie supporter said.
“Why should you stay in your job?” Guttenberg asked. “This community is now struggling.”
“Given the fact that this happened under my watch as the superintendent, I need to fix it,” Runcie said.
Monday’s meeting was held less than a week after the Florida Supreme Court granted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request for a grand jury investigation into school safety.
When Runcie was asked about the grand jury at the meeting, he said he welcomed any independent review.
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