Nikolas Cruz's Feb. 14 killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, happened under a policy of leniency prescribed by the Obama Administration to keep students in school and out of prison and thereby improve school racial outcomes. Here is a timeline. (Accompanying article here.)
2003: Arne Duncan, superintendent of Chicago public schools, hires fellow Harvard alumnus Robert W. Runcie to be his chief information officer. Runcie then becomes chief administrative officer and chief of staff to the board.
January 2009: Duncan is appointed Secretary of Education by President Obama.
May 2009: Florida reins in school "zero tolerance" policies, to exclude minor violations from offenses deemed reportable to law enforcement, such as drawing pictures of guns or throwing erasers. Republican Gov. Charlie Crist signs the measure unanimously passed by both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
July 2009: Duncan launches his “Race to the Top” competition for $4 billion in grants for public schools that conform to new standards and initiatives.
July 2011: Duncan (above right in file photo) and Attorney General Eric Holder (left) announce a joint initiative for “ending the school-to-prison pipeline.” They require that districts report data on discipline disparities by race, and sue major school districts including Oakland and Los Angeles to close racial gaps in suspensions and arrests. The new Supportive School Discipline Initiative is integrated into federal grant-making, including Race to the Top funding.
September 2011: Runcie leaves Chicago to become superintendent of Broward County Public Schools in Florida, using Duncan as a reference. He works closely with the Education Secretary on discipline reforms.
March 2012: The Education Department releases school suspensions data by district, showing Broward has one of biggest disparities: 59 percent of blacks suspended vs. 17 percent of whites.
July 2012: Obama signs an executive order to promote “a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools” and that helps African-Americans who "disproportionately experience school discipline.”
October 2012: Duncan's department awards Broward $48.5 million in Teacher Incentive Fund grants over five years.
November 2013: With the NAACP and law enforcement, Runcie signs the nation’s most comprehensive plan to reduce student suspensions and arrests to end the "school-to-prison pipeline.”
January 2014: Duncan and Holder issue a "Dear Colleague" letter to all school districts setting new national discipline guidelines calling for reductions in racial disparities in suspensions and arrests.
March 2014: Runcie hosts President Obama and Michelle Obama at a Broward high school.
2015: Duncan praises Runcie for reducing arrests. At various conferences on school discipline, Duncan holds Runcie's policy up as national model for slowing the school-to-prison pipeline.
2015: The White House hosts Runcie at a "Rethink School Discipline" summit.
2017: Although Nikolas Cruz was disciplined for a string of offenses -- including assault, threatening teachers and carrying bullets in his backpack -- he was never taken into custody or expelled. Instead, school authorities referred him to mandatory counseling or transferred him. By avoiding a criminal record, Cruz passed a federal background check in February 2017 before purchasing the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle investigators say was used in the mass shooting.