Other Group

PROMISE (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education)

Type:

Alterative School Discipline Program

Developed By:

Broward County Public Schools

Location:

Boward County, FL

PROMISE (“Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education”) is an alternative discipline program developed by the Broward County Public School System in Broward County, Florida. It used principles of “restorative justice” and sought to prevent students who commit certain crimes in schools (including assault, vandalism, and drug possession) from being arrested and from being expelled or suspended. The program was launched in 2013 to cut down on the school district’s number of in-school arrests, which were the highest in the state at that time. The program was praised by the Obama administration’s Justice Department. [1] [2] [3]

The PROMISE program received heavy criticism after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and school employees when it was revealed that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was previously referred to the PROMISE program for a 2013 vandalism offense and never completed it. A commission investigating the shooting recommended in 2019 that Broward County shut down the PROMISE program or merge it with an existing program. [4]

Background

PROMISE for “Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education” and was created by the Broward County Public School System in 2013 under the direction of then-superintendent Robert Runcie, who was later hit with perjury charges related to an investigation of the 2018 school shooting in the county. Runcie negotiated a $740,000 severance package following his 2021 indictment and became the interim executive director of school safety organization Chiefs for Change in 2022. [5] [6]

The PROMISE program was designed to curb in-school arrests for a variety of crimes and made school administrators responsible for determining if a given offense ought to involve the local police department. A flyer for the program stated that the in-school crimes which qualify for participation in the program include assault/threat (no harm or injury), major disruptions on campus, fighting involving “mutual combat,” harassment, theft under $1,000, vandalism under $1,000, drug possession and use, and false accusations against school staff. [7]

Under the program, students who committed an offense could be referred to an off-site alterative school called the Pine Ridge Education Center for several days before returning to their respective schools. [8] [9]

Criticism

The PROMISE program received heavy criticism in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that led to the deaths of 17 students and school employees when it was revealed that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was previously referred to the PROMISE program for a 2013 vandalism offense and never completed it. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was formed by the state to investigate the shooting, recommended in 2019 that Broward County shut down the PROMISE program or merge it with an existing program. The commission cited the fact that Cruz had been referred to the PROMISE program for in-school vandalism in 2013 and returned to school without completing the program. The Broward school district was reportedly “unable to explain why he failed to return or wasn’t subsequently referred to the criminal justice system.” [10]

While Cruz’s 2013 offense was of little direct relevance to the later shooting, commission members questioned the program’s inability to follow the shooter. Author Luke Rosiak mentioned the PROMISE program in his book Race to the Bottom, stating that Cruz “was able to buy a firearm despite a long record of infractions, in part because he never accrued a criminal record.” Rosiak added that “official school records did not document the vast majority of incidents the school knew about.” Rosiak also reported, “At least five students had told the school’s assistant principal that Cruz threatened to kill and rape people and brought knives and bullets or bullet casings to school. Cruz told a friend that administrators searched his backpack in response and found bullets, but administrators made no official record of this. When Cruz attacked another student, peers tried to show administrators video of the attack. They told the students to delete the evidence.” [11]

References

  1. Harris, Alex. “Broward Defends PROMISE Program Again. School Safety Board Remains Unconvinced.” Miami Herald. June 7, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article212687094.html. ^
  2. Rosiak, Luke. “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.” Pg. 28-30. Harper-Collins Publishers. 2022. ^
  3. “PROMISE.” Broward Schools. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.browardschools.com/cms/lib/FL01803656/Centricity/Domain/6947/promiseflyer.pdf. ^
  4. Harris, Alex. “Broward Defends PROMISE Program Again. School Safety Board Remains Unconvinced.” Miami Herald. June 7, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article212687094.html. ^
  5. Associated Press. “Indicted Broward school superintendent gets $740K severance.” May 11, 2021. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.tampabay.com/news/education/2021/05/11/indicted-parkland-school-superintendent-gets-740k-severance/ ^
  6. Travis, Scott. “Robert Runcie, Superintendent During the Parkland Massacre, to Lead School Safety Initiative.” Education Week. June 13, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/robert-runcie-superintendent-during-the-parkland-massacre-to-lead-school-safety-initiative/2022/06 ^
  7. [1] “PROMISE.” Broward Schools. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.browardschools.com/cms/lib/FL01803656/Centricity/Domain/6947/promiseflyer.pdf. ^
  8. Educators, Activists Push Back Against Criticism of Broward’s PROMISE Program. WLRN Miami | South Florida. November 14, 2019. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.wlrn.org/news/2019-11-14/educators-activists-push-back-against-criticism-of-browards-promise-program ^
  9. “PROMISE.” Broward Schools. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.browardschools.com/cms/lib/FL01803656/Centricity/Domain/6947/promiseflyer.pdf ^
  10. Harris, Alex. “Broward Defends PROMISE Program Again. School Safety Board Remains Unconvinced.” Miami Herald. June 7, 2018. Accessed January 11, 2023. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article212687094.html. ^
  11. Rosiak, Luke. “Race to the Bottom: Uncovering the Secret Forces Destroying American Public Education.” Pg. 28-30. Harper-Collins Publishers. 2022. ^
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