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Stoneman Douglas commission urges Broward County to close charter schools without armed guards

The commission grew frustrated Wednesday about news that 29 charter schools, a third of the charter schools in Broward, were reported to not have long-term accommodations.
Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie speaks during a news conference at the Broward Sheriff’s Office Real Time Crime Center in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. [MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald]
Published Aug. 15

Fed up with a lack of urgency, the commission created to investigate the events surrounding last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pressured Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie to close charter schools that still do not have an armed guard on campus.

Runcie said Thursday morning that the School Board is moving to close one non-compliant charter school next week. For 17 months, all public schools, including charter schools, have been required to have a trained armed guard or a sworn law enforcement officer on campus. Classes started in Broward on Wednesday.

“There’s actually very little a school board can do to impact the compliance of charter schools with statutes and best practices,” Runcie said. “The only lever we have to pull is shut them down.”

The commission grew frustrated Wednesday about news that 29 charter schools, a third of the charter schools in the district, were reported to not have long-term accommodations. Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony reached out to charter schools without accommodations and staffed them with short-term deputies. There was also confusion as a state official testified that he had information to the contrary.

Charter schools, which have their own sovereign school boards, bear the responsibility of being in compliance with the law.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he received emails late Wednesday night from charter schools with contracts for police protection that were signed in the past two or three days. One charter school attached a 13-day contract with Hallandale Beach police that was not signed by the city.

“Can’t do business that way,” Gualtieri said. “This is not right. This should’ve been done a long time ago.”

Runcie would not publicly reveal which charter school is up for termination, citing safety concerns.

The superintendent gave a timeline of the district’s efforts to warn charter schools that they were out of compliance with the law. He said no charter school has reached out to the school district for guardian training.

“I do not have the authority to revoke a charter because a school does not have a long-term sustainable plan,” he said. “If there’s noncompliance, we will sanction.”

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