FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Broward County School District is being criticized for making a major mistake surrounding the investigation into the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Last Friday, the district released a report into failures and changes the school district should make.
The report was heavily redacted, but as it turns out, not very well.
It details what the school district got right and wrong about Nikolas Cruz prior to the shooting on Valentine’s Day.
The reason for all the redactions are that the report holds private information about Cruz, something his public defender fought to keep private and the courts agreed to.
Sun Sentinel Managing Editor Dana Banker found the report significant, but it lacked details.
“What they had blacked out in the report was his school history, a lot of his mental health issues,” Banker said. “The problem is you see these recommendations but you really didn’t have the details behind why those decisions were made or what might have gone wrong specifically in this case. So then one of our readers on Facebook says ‘hey did you know you can see what’s in that report?’”
Acting on the tip from a Facebook user, they did something ridiculously easy.
Just copy the document. Paste it. And voila!
“That was the redacted item,” Banker said.
All that blacked out text can be seen. Essentially someone did a shoddy redaction job.
“It’s something that we’ve seen in the past with redacted documents,” Banker said.
After debate in the newsroom and with lawyers, the Sun Sentinel published the redacted details.
“I just feel it is imperative that we get as much information to people as we can,” Banker explained. “I believe that’s what we did in this case. But it was a crazy Friday night! It was a really crazy night in the newsroom!”
The redactions are intimate details of mistakes the school district made.
From not properly informing Cruz of his schooling options to mishandling his request to finish school.
“The thing that we had never seen before is that Nicolaus Cruz himself actually came back ‘I do want to go back to a special needs school. I do want help.’ And they mishandled that,” Banker said.
Monday, Broward’s public defender’s office weighed in on the subject.
Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes saying quote “It’s very difficult to put this genie back into the bottle now that the general public and media outlets have this information in their possession. It has a considerable impact on the trial rights that we were litigating. We went through this process the balance of the right of the public’s right to know with the right to a fair trial.”
Weekes went on to say that they would have not contested the release of this information should the state stop pursuing the death penalty.
Late Monday the school district responded to a CBS4 inquiry into how the redaction failed.
The district responded with a statement saying “The District did not make public content from the report that the court ordered redacted. A decision was made outside of the District to alter a court-approved document. The District respected and adhered to the court order.”
When asked for clarification on the matter, particularly if the school district was not claiming responsibility for the error in redaction, the district referred back to the statement provided earlier.