By Aris Folley
A federal judge on Monday ruled that Broward County schools and the Sheriff’s Office were not legally obligated to protect and shield students in the shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last February, according to a report in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The outlet reports that U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom tossed out a 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, however, reportedly 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 killed 17 people.
Peterson resigned from his job at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office shortly after the shooting in February after being the target of backlash for not intervening during the mass shooting.
“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 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.