Andrew Pollack - Parkland Parent - by Ronald Andring

Ronald Andring, Sr. is a veteran of a 30+ year career in law enforcement and corrections, serving with the Washington State Patrol, the Walla Walla Police Department, and the Washington Department of Corrections until his retirement in 2005. I recently sat down with Andrew Pollack whose daughter Meadow was murdered in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Valentines Day, 2018. Since that day Andrew has investigated why the shooting happened, and detailed his findings in his book “Why Meadow Died: The People And Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students”. The book recounts the chilling details of the shooting rampage that killed 17 students and faculty, and injured an additional 17; its effects on the survivors; and the numerous failures which created the conditions that led to the shooting. Even though I retired from a thirty year career in law enforcement and corrections, and was married to a teacher and teacher’s union president for over 20 years, I was shocked and appalled by the revelations contained in the book. As is my practice I will not name the shooter because it is notoriety he craves. I will simply refer to him by his Broward County jail inmate number, 181958. Andrew first caught my attention when he spoke at the White House listening session with President Donald Trump in February, 2018. Unlike many of the family members of other victims who spoke, Andrew rejected the usual talk about gun control. He focused instead on actually fixing the problem of school shootings. The video of his statement can be viewed at https://youtu.be/wA_V_ivW6CI Andrew told me he is a strong Second Amendment advocate. He opposes gun control and gun free zones which prevent us from protecting ourselves. In my career I worked with many crime victims and victim groups. As the father of a murder victim Andrew is unique in his perspective of the problem of school shootings, and what can be done to prevent them. He told me while the rifle was the instrument used to murder his daughter, the cause of the shooting was the liberal Obama administration policies that allowed the shooter to commit his heinous act. After his meeting with President Trump, Andrew returned home determined to find out why his daughter was murdered. Broward County School District and Broward County Sheriff’s Office officials have been largely uncooperative in providing information about the shooter’s school and criminal history, citing “privacy concerns”. Equally concerning are the statements made shortly after the shooting by Superintendent Robert Runcie, and Sheriff Scott Israel, intending to deflect attention away from their own culpability, that it was the NRA and law-abiding gun owners who opposed gun control who were to blame. Much of what Andrew learned early on about the shooter came from contacts with former students and teachers. Wanting to know 181958’s entire history he made a unique arrangement with his defense attorney — in exchange for the shooter’s history he would testify for the defense at trial. Andrew explained to me, “I don’t care what happens to this kid. He is going to be convicted. He’s either going to get life without parole, or the death penalty.” Andrew went on to explain he is “after the same people as the defense”. He is determined to expose the dangerous policies and decisions that prevented the shooter from being held accountable for his dangerous behavior. Andrew has filed civil lawsuits against the Broward County School District, the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, and Deputy Scot Peterson for the wrongful death of his daughter. The basis of his lawsuits is the implementation of policies by the school district in concert with former Sheriff Scott Israel to ignore violent and criminal behavior by students in an effort to mainstream dangerous students into regular classrooms. The policies were intended to “break the school to prison pipeline”. Under these policies criminal behavior was routinely ignored, discipline and arrests were discouraged, and teacher concerns about student and staff safety were minimized. Andrew told me “We think of ’special needs’ students as someone with cerebral palsy, autism, or a learning disability. But they also categorize students who have serious mental and behavior issues, violent kids, as ‘special needs’.” Andrew pointed out 181958 has an extensive history of depression, mental and behavioral problems, animal torture, a fascination with death and firearms, bringing weapons to school, suicidal thoughts and actions, and family violence. Andrew explained 181958 “Was born to a drug addicted mother. An older couple adopted him, and later his half-brother from the same mother.” He continued, “They knew about the animal torture and all of the other problems, yet helped him buy the rifle he used to murder my daughter.” Andrew still can’t believe anyone could do that knowing the shooter’s dangerous history. Shortly after the shooting Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Max Eden contacted Andrew because he intended to write an article about the mainstreaming policies. Max is an education policy expert whose mother was a teacher. After reviewing all of the evidence Max told Andrew he was aware these policies had problems, but never imagined they could ever lead to a school shooting. The story was much larger than a single article, so they collaborated to put it all into their book. Andrew explained, “I couldn’t have written the book without Max because he was the education policy expert. And Max couldn’t have written the book without me because I had the inside story.” Beyond the failures by school officials to deal effectively with 181958, Andrew pointed out a series of events, any one of which if acted on appropriately, could have prevented the shooting. He cited the numerous contacts between 181958 and the Broward County Sheriffs deputies, at some of which he should’ve been arrested. Also the FBI failed to follow up on credible reports of a planned school shooting. Then the day of the shooting the school safety officer failed to secure the gate 181958 entered carrying the bag containing the rifle and extra magazines. Neither did he warn other staff of the likely danger. His greatest animosity, though, is reserved for former School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson. Andrew bristled, “He is a coward. He not only waited outside with his gun drawn while the shooter was still on the first floor, but he told other officers who responded not to go in either.” Andrew went on, “If he had gone in then and confronted the shooter when he was still on the first floor, my daughter would be alive.” 'They put these guys in the school who have been on the job for 20 or 30 years as some sort of reward. These guys figure it is easy duty, and nothing will ever happen.” Andrew explained, “They are just waiting around for their pensions. They don’t care.” Andrew said Scot Peterson is now getting what he deserves for being a coward. “He is being prosecuted for child endangerment because he refused to do his job.” He also added, “Scott Israel and four other deputies were also fired or resigned” Since writing his book Andrew has learned other disturbing details from that day. In a deposition the school safety officer “Told us he was required to frisk this kid every day before he could be let into the school.” This requirement was because 181958 had been caught bringing a knife to school in addition to his other dangerous behaviors. Andrew also learned from friends who watched the school security videos from that day what his daughter’s last moments were like. He hasn’t watched the video himself because those friends said it was too gruesome. “I just can’t watch it myself”, he explained as he recounted what they told him. When the shooter pulled the fire alarm to cause students and teachers to flood the halls, Meadow walked out into the third floor hall with them. Once the shooting started, however, the teacher closed and locked the door so Meadow couldn’t get back into the classroom. “That cowardly teacher left my daughter out in the hall to die.” Andrew lamented. As the shooter worked his way up to the third floor unchallenged by police, he shot Meadow four times as she sought cover. She fell, but managed to crawl across the hall to a fellow student who had also been shot shot. In her last moments Meadow comforted her dying friend before she was shot five more times. “That’s the kind of person she was.” Andrew said. “She was going to law school after graduation. She was going to do good things.” Andrew has since moved away from Florida. But he left behind a memorial to Meadow and the other shooting victims. Through the Meadow’s Movement, Inc foundation Andrew raised the money to purchase land at a park near the school and build a playground. “Princess Meadow’s Playground,” he says proudly. “It is what she would have wanted me to do.” He also continues his crusade to educate parents about the policies that may be placing their school age children at risk. “It makes me happy when a parent tells me they pulled their kid out of public school.” he said. “That’s how I know I am making a difference.” Since the day of the shooting Andrew says he has been approached by around two hundred companies seeking his endorsement. He says they are selling bullet proof glass, body armor, armored black boards, and similar items. While he appreciates what they are doing, he didn’t see any great value in those products. Recently he has given his endorsement to a company marketing software that links the video and intercom systems of schools, churches, and other public spaces directly to their local law enforcement dispatch center. “In case of an emergency, within five seconds or so, the video cameras and building layouts pop up on the dispatch center’s screen.” he explained. “That way responding officers have real time information about where a shooter is, what he is doing, and they can even talk to him over the intercom. This is a technology that can save lives.” The software is being provided to law enforcement agencies through grants so it is available for linking to public spaces where emergencies may occur. You can follow Andrew’s efforts on Facebook at Andrew Pollack Parkland parent, or at AmericansForClass.org.

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