Dan Sweeney Contact Reporter South Florida Sun Sentinel

With the revelation that confessed Stoneman Douglas shooter Nikolas Cruz was referred to Broward Schools’ Promise program for students who commit misdemeanors on campus — contrary to previous statements by school officials — we asked readers their thoughts on the future of the program.

But readers were more interested in discussing the future of Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, and not in particularly glowing terms.

The Promise program was designed as a way to divert from jail youthful offenders who commit one of 13 misdemeanor crimes. Cruz was referred to the program while at Westglades Middle School, which is next to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, after he was caught vandalizing a restroom.

Programs such as Promise have been lauded for preventing boys and girls from starting criminal records, black marks that can follow them through life and make it difficult to further education or gain employment.

Runcie had previously said Cruz had “no connection” to the program, but was forced to walk back those comments. Now, he says he believed the information to be correct at the time.

But that doesn’t seem good enough for readers who responded, many of whom are calling for Runcie to step down or be fired.

Kyle Kashuv, a Stoneman Douglas student who has been critical of both local government and fellow students who are advocating for gun control, accused Runcie of deliberately lying, which the superintendent denies.

In a separate tweet, Kashuv called on Runcie to step down.

Several readers also emailed with lengthier critiques of the program itself.

“Anyone, regardless of age, who commits a crime should be subject, by default, to the prescribed punishment for the crime committed. The attending officer however, especially a school resource officer, should be enabled to show compassion and clemency at their reasonable discretion for a child who shows immediate and sincere remorse when confronted with their alleged criminality (to avoid embarrassing and unnecessary “zero-tolerance” debacles) or when the parents express a sincere desire to discipline their own child for their mistake (depending on the severity of the crime in question),” emailed Anthony Garcia, a Miami-Dade County resident who added he was deeply concerned about the state of Broward schools with a nephew soon to enter the system. “But in the absence of either a student’s remorsefulness or a parent’s stern discipline, all citizens — children included — must be taught respect for the law and for others. By all reports to date, Cruz was an unrepentant and remorseless person well-known to all around him before that infamous day as a repeated and recalcitrant troublemaker—he should have been dealt with as such.”

Another emailer, Rebecca Sway, offered a “student court” idea, involving community service, mentoring, psychological counseling, visits to a jail or prison and successful completion of the school to have a misdemeanor crime expunged.

“Society cannot wait to enact meaningful change that protects citizens and helps put offender on better legal path,” Sway wrote.

“I don’t thing kids should be thrown in jail for misdemeanors committed in school. But I do believe we need more and better social/mental health programs with the authority to gather all information on these children who so desperately need help,” emailed Linda Rein. “Nikolas Cruz was apparently on the radar of school and law enforcement. He apparently was receiving mental health care. But when his mom died the bottom fell out of all those safety nets. He was screaming for help through his behavior on social media but no one seemed able to put it all together that this young man was truly dangerous.”

That’s fairly similar to the critique offered by Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Petty argued the Promise program is not the issue — it’s the lack of communication between the school system, law enforcement and the Department of Children and Families that occurs when kids are kept out of the system.

“There should be a robust sharing of information. If appears that many of these programs created the opposite. There was an incentive not to share info with law enforcement,” Petty said. “Between DCF, [the Department of Juvenile Justice], local law enforcement and the school district, there should be a threat assessment team and robust sharing of information. Some of the objectives of the program seem to fly in the face of best practices around school safety, particularly what we know about threat assessment.”