The recent Florida shooting which resulted in the death of seventeen persons has left schools wondering what additional measures need to be taken. The knee jerk responses have ranged from additional security to increased social media post evaluations to increasing the number of armed school staff. Schools need to eliminate the real challenge that resulted in the Florida shooting.

The Florida shooting was carried out by Nikolas Cruz. It has been reported that Cruz’s troubles began as early as the fourth grade. As a fourth-grader, he would try to kill squirrels with his pellet gun. Then he started going after chickens. By the time Cruz was a teenager, he was sneaking into his neighbors’ yard across the street and trying to get his dogs to attack their baby potbelly pigs. One resident watched him take long sticks to rabbit holes, ramming them down as hard as possible to kill any creatures trapped inside. If this was a Black child, he would have been remanded to the juvenile justice system. In addition, animal activist should have stepped in as they did with Michael Vick.

In the affluent neighborhood where Cruz grew up, it was reported that neighbors called authorities on him frequently. Every few weeks, it seemed, police cruisers were pulling up to the teenager’s house to sort out the latest complaint. The end result was no arrest.

The problems did not stop there. Cruz picked fights with other kids. He stole people’s mail. He threw rocks and coconuts and vandalized property, according to his neighbors. He lurked at late hours along drainage ditches running along the back yards of their houses. One woman said she caught him peeking into her bedroom window. Another caught him stealing their bike. This type of activity from a Black child would have resulted in an arrest of either the child or the parents.

Even the school reported challenges with Cruz. In middle school, there were the vocal outbursts, disturbing drawings of stick figures with guns and constant disciplinary issues. There were threatening statements written on his homework and scrap paper, including a reference to killing President Barack Obama, saying he should be “burned alive and eaten which was not reported to nor investigated by the Secret Service.

Some teachers responded to Cruz by banning him from their classroom at the Westglades Middle School. One teacher said he was barred from bringing a backpack to the school and that security personnel had to search him to ensure he didn’t have weapons. Teachers were very concerned about him and were working to get him help. “Looking in his eyes, he just looked like there was a problem,” said a teacher who worked with Cruz in sixth grade. “His behavior in class wasn’t constantly wrong, but every once in a while, it was. He would just spew something out of his mouth that was inappropriate.” Inappropriate language by a Black student normally results in some type of disciplinary consequence, according to the Raccelerate Phenomenon.

Cruz faced a long string of escalating disciplinary measures throughout his academic career for insubordination, profanity, disruption, fighting, and assault.

His middle and high school teachers referred him to individual and family counseling. Parent conferences were held which involved social workers. He was sent to in-school suspension. He was sent to a school for emotionally disturbed youth. Finally, after he was disciplined for an assault at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, he was expelled a year before he returned with a gun.

This is a classic case of White privilege. White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit people whom society identifies as white in some countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

While the school staff members attempted to report that the appropriate steps were taken, not once did they indicate any type of police intervention. If this were a Black student he would have never made it through middle school without police intervention.

Schools must begin with the elimination of the perception of the acceptance of White privilege. This can only be accomplished by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.


Related Articles

Teachers say Florida suspect’s problems started in middle school, and the system tried to help him

Fla. shooting suspect had a history of explosive anger, depression, killing animals

Suspect in Florida school massacre questioned in November over shooting threat


All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

cultural diversity consultant cultural diversity consultant classroom management cultural diversity consultant cultural diversity consultant raccelerate formula cultural diversity consultant cultural diversity consultant

“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
 ~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools

“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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