School board knew of Parkland shooter's obsession with guns and violence, documents show

Warning signs present in Cruz's education plan prior to Douglas enrollment

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

PARKLAND, Fla. - Exclusive documents obtained by Local 10 News show the education plan for school shooter Nikolas Cruz; a plan that left clear signals that should have alerted officials of the danger he posed to the community, according to a former Broward County ESE specialist who reviewed the information at the station's request.

"What you're discussing from the plan seems to be the profile of a mass killer," said Dottie Provenzano, who retired from Broward County Public Schools in 2017. 

The education plan shows that, even as Cruz was making progress at the Cross Creek School for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students in late 2015, but that he was known by administrators to have an obsession with guns and violence. Here are some passages from the plan: 

  • "Nikolas at times, will be distracted by inappropriate conversations of his peers if the topic is about guns, people being killed or the armed forces," wrote Cross Creek educators. 
  • "He is fascinated by the use of guns and often speaks of weapons and the importance of  'having weapons to remain safe in this world.'" 
  • "He becomes preoccupied with things such as current events regarding wars and terrorist [sic]." 

Provenzano said that in 42 years of dealing with exceptional students she never saw a document with such obvious signs that a student might resort to violence. 

"These are significant red flags that this is a very troubled young man," she said.

The plan also noted that Cruz had been involved in two serious incidents, recent at the time: "He is very easily influenced and was coerced to jump off the back of the school bus by a peer. Nikolas has difficulty with wanting to have friends and engaging in following the negative behaviors of those peers.

He also has poor judgment in social situations. Recently he was punched numerous times by a peer for using racial slurs towards that peer. … He refused to accept that the comments made by him caused the peers reaction."

The plan shows that Cruz was on psychiatric medication at that time, though it doesn't specify the medication, and that he had "limited social judgment and poor insight which affects his progress in the general education setting."

Despite all of those concerns, his transfer from Cross Creek to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a school of about 3,300 students, was authorized, and records show he enrolled full-time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in January 2016.

The documents also show that Cruz had been making progress and doing well in classes at Cross Creek School prior to the move. He was even volunteering at the YMCA and wanted to return to a "regular school" like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School instead of Cross Creek, which he believed was for students who were "not smart." It mentions family counseling involving his mother, who died this past November. 

"Nikolas' mother expressed that she feels that he is doing well at this school," the plan noted. "She is so happy with his academic progress as well as behavioral progress. He is using profanity less at home. He gives his daily note to mom most of the time. His behavior at home has improved. Nikolas is maturing nicely and is calming down. He would like more homework and prove that he can do the work. He is learning to do his own laundry/chores at home."

But records indicate that once the move was made to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, his behavior deteriorated, with several disciplinary actions, including for fighting and assault that led to his ouster from the school in February last year. 

Though his behavior had been improving at Cross Creek, Cruz had two serious incidents, one in which he was talked into jumping off the back of a school bus, and another in which he was punched numerous times by a peer for using racial slurs.

The documents also show Cruz was dependent on psychiatric medication and continued to struggle greatly in social situations. Despite those issues, he was still enrolled at Douglas in January 2016 when his behavior rapidly deteriorated.

"If you make a movement with somebody like this, you better have an ironclad system of support to monitor him along the way," Provenzano said.

When asked if she believed Cruz received that support, Provenzano did not hesitate with an answer.

"No, I do not," Provenzano said.

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