PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended four Broward County School Board members on Aug. 26, following a grand jury recommendation citing “incompetence, neglect of duty, and misuse of authority.”
A Statewide Grand Jury released a 122-page report accusing the four of a range of “inexcusable actions… and unacceptable behavior” relating to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, when 17 students and staff lost their lives.
The governor said he took the report’s recommendations and decided to act on his constitutional authority as governor.
“It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, neglect of duty, misfeasance or malfeasance,” DeSantis said in a written statement. “We hope this suspension brings the Parkland community another step towards justice. This action is in the best interest of the residents and students of Broward County and all citizens of Florida.”
In announcing the suspensions, DeSantis said, “These are inexcusable actions by school board members who have shown a pattern of emboldening unacceptable behavior, including fraud and mismanagement, across the district.”
In 2019 the governor asked the Supreme Court to convene the grand jury to look into safety and security issues statewide in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy.
The grand jury’s report, which was completed in April 2021, but was not released until Aug. 19, 2022, details accounts of mismanagement within Broward schools after the shooting.
Former Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie was indicted on perjury charges by the grand jury in April 2021. He stepped down in August 2021. Much of the report was highly critical of Runcie’s leadership, but the four now-suspended board members continued to support him.
After the grand jury report was released, the board’s chairwoman Laurie Rich Levinson told news outlets it was a “political hatchet job.”
The report’s release resulted from appeals by school board members who fought to have it redacted or expunged. A county judge rejected the requests; the members appealed to the 4th District Court of Appeals which twice denied their appeals over the summer. They appealed to the state Supreme court which declined to hear the case.