Reading through tears is difficult. Reading through disgust even more so.
"Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America's Students" is a difficult book to read.
Written by Education Policy Expert at the Manhattan Institute Max Eden and Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting, "Why Meadow Died" details how Broward County Schools repeatedly failed not just the victims of the 2018 shooting, but the perpetrator as well. It reveals how layers of corruption, political correctness politics, and desire to avoid accountability permeates the school system, creating a web that entraps students.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School made tragic headlines on February 14, 2018, after former student Nikolas Cruz opened fire in the halls, killing 17 students. In the months that followed, a handful of students from the school led a national campaign to discredit the National Rifle Association and call for increased gun control. The campaign included the March for Our Lives and a cross-country bus tour aimed at encouraging young people to vote.
Pollack's book glosses over the viral campaign and instead dives into the way the school system failed both his daughter and the man who killed her. The story will make any stomach knot.
Although it contains what seems to be an ever-increasing cast of characters, Pollack reveals how the PROMISE program — designed to cut off the school-to-prison pipeline — was in fact a cover-up of increasingly worrying numbers on violence and disciplinary issues in the school. Rather than solve issues at their roots, administrators used the PROMISE program as a way to underreport issues and deter law enforcement from making arrests, even for felonies.
Pollack also delves into how the systemic web woven around Cruz, who he calls by the prison number 18-1958, repeatedly allowed administrators to mismanage his emotional disabilities and wave off real threats. He tells the story of a deeply troubled boy who, rather than given proper help, was shuffled around a broken system under the guise of providing second chances.
Perhaps most poignant in Pollack's story is how the book ends. A failed campaign for school board, lost to candidate with generational political ties, leaves the reader with a sense of hopelessness.
Instead of a happy ending, there is a call to action.
"The only reason that our schools work this way is because we, the parents, allow it," Pollack writes on the penultimate page of the book. "You simply have to step up, get involved, and make a difference for your children. You can't let your schools be run like the Broward Country Public Schools district."
Pollack's book is one without a bow. It is a story of heartbreak, not success.
Two years after the Valentine's Day shooting, Pollack's book is still asking one question — how can the people at fault be held accountable?
Pollack says that it is not any one person who created the Parkland shooting. For him, it was a mess of politicians, school administrators, police, and uninvolved parents that led to 17 deaths, that led to the tragedy that is Cruz.
It's difficult to read through tears, but it's an important book to read. It goes beyond the NRA, beyond March for Our Lives, beyond gun control into the root of the problem: a broken school system designed to play politics rather than educate.
Pollack says it best:
"If anyone in the Broward County school district made a single responsible decision regarding Nikolas Cruz, then my daughter Meadow would still be alive."
They would all be alive.