TALLAHASSEE — When Nikolas Cruz, the confessed Parkland shooter, was still in middle school, his therapist and school psychiatrist took the unusual step of jointly writing a letter to his private psychiatrist.
“Per recent information shared in school he dreams of killing others and (being) covered in blood,” they wrote, indicating they wanted the psychiatrist to be aware of the dreams in case that person could alter his medication.
That letter is included in a book out Tuesday, entitled Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students. It was written by Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, who was one of the 17 people killed on February 14, 2018 during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen more people were injured during the massacre.
Pollack wrote the book with Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank based in New York. An excerpt of the book was published earlier this week by the New York Post.
That excerpt also included notes by Cruz’s eighth-grade language arts teacher, who wrote in a behavioral analysis of Cruz that she felt strongly that “Nikolas is a danger to the students and faculty at this school.” She took detailed notes of his outbursts in class as well as drawings he would make of people shooting at each other, in addition to “creepy sexual pictures” such as “dogs with large penises.”
Pollack told the Times/Herald that some of the records he used in the book he obtained from Cruz’s own defense attorneys. He said “they’re going for accountability and that’s what I’m about.”
David Alan Frankel, who’s acting as the special counsel to the Broward Public Defender’s Office in this case, confirmed that they provided Pollack with some documents and said Cruz waived his federal rights to keep his medical records private. Pollack is suing Cruz as well as other district and health personnel he said failed to take action on the endless red flags in Cruz’s life.
“Some of the records deal with his psychological profile or psychological history, which are helpful to the plaintiffs in those cases because the crux of their civil actions is that the school board and Henderson (Behavioral Health), which treated him, dropped the ball,” Frankel said.
Frankel agreed that it was a very unusual move for the defense lawyers to provide Pollack records that have not yet been entered into evidence in court.
"Under the circumstances we thought it was appropriate to assist these families any way we could,” he said.
Pollack has become an outspoken advocate since the shooting, traveling to meet with President Donald Trump and working with state lawmakers to help craft the state’s response to the shooting. He said he hopes the book will serve as a “manual” to parents.
“I want to be the last father who could say, ‘I didn’t know what was going on in the schools,’” he said.
Pollack has repeatedly spoken against diversion programs like Broward’s PROMISE program, which aims to reduce student arrests for certain offenses by encouraging students to correct their behavior without going through the criminal justice system. Cruz was referred to the program after a middle school incident in which he damaged a faucet in the sink in the boys’ bathroom at Westglades Middle School.
However, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who chairs the commission in charge of reviewing the failures that led to the Parkland shooting, has said that even if Cruz had received maximum penalties for his actions in school, his ability to purchase guns like the AR-15 he used in the shooting would have been unaffected.
In an executive order in February, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered that the Florida Department of Education work with the Department of Juvenile Justice to audit all disciplinary diversion programs. The resulting report, published July 1, found that only a handful of Florida districts actually use programs like PROMISE, and those districts incorporate “at least some elements of evidence-based practice."
But, “none track outcomes sufficiently to draw scientifically valid conclusions regarding their effectiveness,” the report said.