Federal Judge Dismisses Shooting Related Claims by Marjory Stoneman Douglas Survivors

What to Know

  • The judge did allow a portion of the suit to go forward against former school resource deputy Scot Peterson -- though not for actions taken.

A federal judge last Wednesday dismissed Broward School and Sheriff's officials, as well as Broward County itself, from a lawsuit filed by 15 students who say the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland caused them psychological injury and severe trauma.

But the judge did allow a portion of the suit to go forward against former school resource deputy Scot Peterson - though not for actions taken or not taken in connection to the attack.

The lawsuit, filed in July by the 15 survivors, named as defendants Peterson, now-resigned Capt. Jan Jordan, Sheriff Scott Israel, as well as Broward Schools superintendent Robert Runcie, now-dismissed school monitor Andrew Medina and Broward County government.

They claimed their civil and due process rights were violated by the defendants' failure to protect them from school shooters.

But U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the complaint failed to allege any of the defendants' "acts or omissions were arbitrary or conscience-shocking” -- the relatively high bar such a complaint must rise above before it can go forward. The allegations are more closely related to a claim of "deliberate indifference," she said, but -- even if that claim were proven -- that “is insufficient to constitute a due-process violation” in this situation.

"Viewed properly, the claim arises from the actions of (the killer), a third party, and not a state actor," the judge wrote, dismissing all claims of constitutional rights violations related to the shooting itself.

She did allow one narrow portion of the lawsuit against Peterson to go forward. A student who was detained and searched as part of a drug sale investigation occurring the morning of the shooting claims his rights were violated when Peterson took $200 from him with reasonable suspicion that he was dealing drugs.

The money was returned after the student's mother confirmed to Peterson what the student claimed - that it was money to take his girlfriend to dinner for Valentine's Day.

"As alleged, the basis for Peterson's search was not reasonable," the judge wrote, adding she could not dismiss that claim at this early stage of the litigation.

The dismissal does not involve any of several lawsuits filed in state court by the parents of students who were killed.

Nor does it give the plaintiffs an opportunity to fix the lawsuit to where it could withstand another motion to dismiss, the judge ruled, saying "further amendment of these claims would be futile."

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