FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The superintendent of the Florida school district where 17 students and staff died in a 2018 high school massacre was arrested Wednesday on a perjury charge.
Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at district headquarters and charged with perjury in an official proceeding, which is a felony, county jail records show.
FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said no further information was immediately available and it was not known if the arrest is connected to the investigation that followed the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A statewide grand jury was empaneled after the shooting to investigate school safety, but it has expanded its role to include possible corruption in the district. One administrator was previously arrested for allegedly rigging contracts with vendors and accepting bribes.
Jail records do not show if Runcie, 59, has an attorney. The school district did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. He was released on his own recognizance. Broward County is the nation’s sixth-largest school district with more than 270,000 students.
Runcie came into the national spotlight after the massacre when some parents criticized him for programs they felt had been lenient toward the shooter.
Runcie, by a 6-3 vote, survived a 2019 motion by the school board that sought to have him removed. The attempt was led by Lori Alhadef, who was elected to the board after her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting.
The superintendent’s critics said bullying and other school problems were routinely underreported by Stoneman Douglas and other district schools and few did voluntary security assessments. Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism, for example.
Another target of criticism has been the district’s Promise Program, a student disciplinary system Runcie instituted shortly after he began as superintendent in 2011. Under Promise, students who fight or commit petty vandalism, theft, harassment or other minor crimes, are referred to an off-campus site for up to 10 days instead of the courts.
Critics say Promise created a lenient atmosphere that allowed shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz to briefly attend Stoneman Douglas a year before the massacre despite a history of fights, threats and behavioral problems. The district says while the program needed changes, it was a success overall.
Alhadef did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
Runcie’s supporters have praised him for increasing the district’s graduation rate, improving schools districtwide and reaching out to minority communities.
Tony Montalto, president of the group that represents Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims’ families, said Wednesday he is “thankful” that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the grand jury investigation into the district and its handling of the massacre.
“It is important that we get the facts about what happened and then hold those responsible accountable and implement positive change,” said Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting.
Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.