What to Know
- Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested on a perjury charge Wednesday
- Broward County School Board General Counsel Barbara Myrick was also arrested Wednesday as part of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation
- The charges are related to testimony by Runcie and Myrick before a statewide grand jury that was empaneled to investigate possible failures in following school-related safety laws and mismanaging funds solicited for school safety initiatives, FDLE officials said
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested on a perjury charge Wednesday.
Runcie, 59, was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on a felony charge of perjury in an official proceeding, Broward County jail records showed.
Runcie was booked into jail and released on his own recognizance.
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In a statement, Runcie's attorneys said he will plead not guilty to the charge.
"It is a sad day in Broward County and across Florida when politics become more important than the interests of our students. Superintendent Runcie has fully cooperated with law enforcement throughout this statewide grand jury process. This morning, we received a copy of an indictment that does not shed any light on what false statement is alleged to have been made. He will continue to be transparent with the Board, the parents and the public with any new information he receives," the statement read. "We are confident that he will be exonerated and he intends to continue to carry out his responsibilities with the highest level of integrity and moral standards, as he has done for nearly ten years in his role as Superintendent."
FDLE officials said the charge against Runcie is related to his testimony before a statewide grand jury that was empaneled to investigate possible failures in following school-related safety laws and mismanaging funds solicited for school safety initiatives, as well as the district’s construction bond program.
The grand jury was empaneled following the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took the lives of 17 students and staff.
FDLE officials said Broward County School Board General Counsel Barbara Myrick was also arrested Wednesday as part of the investigation.
Myrick, 72, is charged with unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings, also a felony. She was also booked into jail and released.
Runcie has been with BCPS since 2011, after working as chief administrative officer for Chicago Public Schools. Broward is the nation's sixth largest public school system.
Broward School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood released a statement after Wednesday's arrests.
"In response to today’s events, the School Board of Broward County, Florida (SBBC) will provide transparency, accountability and integrity as we continue to focus on delivering the highest quality educational experience for our students, teachers and staff," Osgood's statement read. "As legal processes continue, the School District will operate as normal under the District Leadership Team."
Runcie came into the national spotlight after the Parkland shooting when some parents criticized him for programs they felt had been lenient toward the shooter.
Runcie, by a 6-3 vote, survived a 2019 motion by the school board that sought to have him removed. The attempt was led by Lori Alhadef, who was elected to the board after her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting.
The superintendent’s critics said bullying and other school problems were routinely underreported by Stoneman Douglas and other district schools and few did voluntary security assessments. Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism, for example.
Another target of criticism has been the district’s Promise Program, a student disciplinary system Runcie instituted shortly after he began as superintendent in 2011. Under Promise, students who fight or commit petty vandalism, theft, harassment or other minor crimes, are referred to an off-campus site for up to 10 days instead of the courts.
Critics say Promise created a lenient atmosphere that allowed shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz to briefly attend Stoneman Douglas a year before the massacre despite a history of fights, threats and behavioral problems. But the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission explicitly ruled out the Promise Program as a possible source of the tragedy.
The district says while the Promise Program needed changes, it was a success overall.
Runcie's supporters have praised him for increasing the district's graduation rate, improving schools districtwide and reaching out to minority communities.
Tony Montalto, president of the group that represents Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims' families, said Wednesday he is "thankful" that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the grand jury investigation into the district and its handling of the massacre.
“It is important that we get the facts about what happened and then hold those responsible accountable and implement positive change," said Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting.
School board member Debbi Hixon, who ran for office after her husband Chris was killed in the MSD shooting, said she was stunned by the news.
"It was a myriad of emotions but the main one is shock, it was not anything that was in my radar at all, and of course the district is in shock but we do have to remember that people are entitled to due process so we have to see what exactly the facts are," Hixon said.
Check back with NBC 6 for updates.