A 19-year-old lunatic shot and killed Meadow Pollack in her school hallway. How the teen died was painfully obvious: She took nine bullets. But in a new book, her dad tries to answer: "Why?"
Andrew Pollack quickly became a national figure after the Feb. 14, 2018, Parkland massacre that ended the lives of 14 students. A teacher, football coach and athletic director also died.
Pollack channeled his anguish and fury into a public crusade to hold people accountable for systemic failings in school security and in the police response.
He sued a school deputy, got a campus watchman fired, and campaigned to elect new school board members and a sympathetic governor. He took to Twitter, gathering up followers with the refrain: #Fixit. And he lobbied to train and arm willing guardians in schools, including teachers.
Ultimately, he teamed up with Max Eden, an education researcher at a conservative-leaning New York City think tank, to write: "Why Meadow Died: the People and Policies that Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America's Students."
Post Hill Press, an independent publisher out of Tennessee, released the book Tuesday.
A former scrap-metal dealer, Pollack writes in the preface that after Meadow died, he thought that getting answers about why the massacre happened would help him come to terms with losing her.
"It didn't," he writes. "But my hope is that what I've learned will at last help you keep your kids safe."
His conclusion: Social justice policies crafted to address bigotry and inequity have kept police and schools from arresting and disciplining kids, especially disturbed kids, such as his daughter's killer.
He is particularly critical of Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and his school discipline policies, including the Promise program, which were designed to keep non-violent kids from being arrested for misdemeanors. Critics contend the philosophy led to widespread leniency for out-of-control children.
Pollack writes that Runcie and the school board treated questions about the policies: "with condescension, and implied that parents whose children were murdered were wrongheaded - even racist - to call for change and accountability."
Meadow was a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and only 18 years old when she died. She was the youngest of Pollack's three children and his only daughter. "Meadow was my princess," he writes. "So sweet, but so tough. She could be like a supermodel one day and then go off-roading with the boys the next. She was just an all-American girl."
Through much of the narrative, Pollack refers to the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, by only his court case number: 18-1958, until delving into his schooling. At age 3, Cruz was deemed developmentally delayed and later labeled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and an emotional behavioral disability.
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In his quest for answers, Pollack claims he made a deal with the killer's lawyers. He asked that they hand over Cruz's education records. In return, Pollack agreed to testify as a witness for the defense about how the system failed the youth.
Records show the district moved him from a special school for children with severe behavior problems - to the doomed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
The school system never had him arrested or sent to a psychiatric hospital, even though he threatened students, brought dead animals to school, used racial slurs and claimed he was suicidal.
"18-1958 was never going to be a model citizen," Pollack writes. "but it truly took a village to raise him into a school shooter. I can't even say he killed my daughter. They killed my daughter."
Pollack devotes chapters of the book to allies who joined in his quest for answers, including a Stoneman Douglas math teacher who survived the attack, a muckraking student journalist and the immigrant father of a grievously injured child.
He calls them "my team."
For some, Pollack's book will be seen through a purely political lens. He does not view gun control as the answer, unabashedly supports President Donald Trump and regularly rails against Democrats on social media.
His co-author and their publisher are both aligned with the right.
Politics aside, there is no quibbling with Pollack's right to question, to probe, to scream and shout.
Two-thirds of the way through the book, he shows all the missed opportunities to stop Cruz.
Pollack lists three pages of "what ifs" - turn-of-events that could had changed the outcome on Feb. 14, 2018, if only someone had made a different decision.
The list is 42 items long.
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