A federal judge on Monday ruled that Broward County schools and the Sheriff’s Office had no legal duty to protect and shield students during the shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last February, reports The Sun-Sentinel.
The Florida newspaper reports that U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed the lawsuit brought by 15 students who survived the school shooting that argued the Sheriff’s Office and the Broward school district had a legal duty to protect them during the massacre.
Bloom ruled that the defendants were not constitutionally obligated to protect students who were not in custody.
“The claim arises from the actions of [shooter Nikolas] Cruz, a third party, and not a state actor,” she wrote in the ruling last week. “Thus, the critical question the Court analyzes is whether defendants had a constitutional duty to protect plaintiffs from the actions of Cruz.”
“As previously stated, for such a duty to exist on the part of defendants, plaintiffs would have to be considered to be in custody,” she continued.
Scot Peterson, one of the defendants in the case, was the only armed deputy stationed at the high school on the day the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, arrived at the school with an assault rifle and murdered 17 people, in addition to wounding 17 more. Peterson has been widely criticized following the shooting after it was reported that he took refuge outside the school and did not rush into the school building to confront Cruz.
“His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatized,” the lawsuit had claimed of Peterson.
The students argued in the lawsuit that the defendants’ “either have a policy that allows killers to walk through a school killing people without being stopped. Alternatively, they have such inadequate training that the individuals tasked with carrying out the policies … lack the basic fundamental understandings of what those policies are such that they are incapable of carrying them out.”
The Hill notes: “The ruling comes a week after Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning rejected Peterson’s argument that he had ‘no legal duty’ to intervene during the school shooting, saying that he had an ‘obligation to act reasonably’ during the incident instead. ”