The Broward County School Board has demanded that parents of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting turn over psychiatric records to prove that they suffered trauma, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Wednesday.
Parents of victims have sued the school board and county sheriff’s office following the 2018 shooting, which left 17 people dead and 17 injured, many of them students of the school. The shooting was perpetrated by a former student, and lawsuits have blamed the school board for neglecting to identify the threat that the student posed.
In order to claim damages, however, the school board has requested that parents of victims prove that they suffered trauma by presenting psychiatric records. The requests were filed as court documents in responses to various lawsuits against the board.
The school district wrote in one request filed October 1 that it “recognizes the sensitive nature of these records,” but that the records are necessary to prove plaintiffs experienced suffering. Robert Kelley, an attorney for Lori Alhadeff, herself a member of the school board whose daughter was killed in the shooting, said that the request was out of line and unnecessary.
“I personally don’t think the records are relevant,” Kelley told the Sun-Sentinel. “I don’t think anyone is going to dispute that these families have suffered mental anguish.”
While Kelley said that trauma in these kinds of lawsuits is generally proved via testimony, school board lawyer Eugene Pettis contended that the board had a legal obligation to make sure the trauma could be proved via records.
“You always get the records,” Pettis said. “If there are claims, you get the records to support those claims. It’s happened in every such case I’ve tried.”
The 2018 shooting also caused widespread anger towards the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, which was accused of bungling its response to the attack. Four officers were fired after failing to enter the high school upon arrival at the scene. One of those officers, Seargent Brian Miller, was reinstated with back pay in May 2020 even though he hid behind his car for 10 minutes after arriving at the school.
The Florida State Senate voted in 2019 to remove Sheriff Scott Israel, the former head of Broward’s police force, in the wake of the shooting. Governor Ron DeSantis replaced Israel with current Broward sheriff Gregory Tony.