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Deputy Fired After Response During Parkland Shooting Will Be Reinstated

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  • Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four deputies fired last year for inaction during the 2018 Parkland shooting, with him specifically found to have been taking cover behind a car at the time. 
  • But an arbitrator found that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated his right to due process by firing him two days after a 180-day window it had to notify him. 
  • He will now be reinstated with full seniority, benefits, and backpay. For reference, Miller was paid more than $137,000 in 2018.
  • The sheriff’s office said it is exploring legal options and stood by its initial termination, calling the arbitration “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.”

How Miller Responded During the Shooting 

A Florida deputy who was fired for hiding behind his patrol car during the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has just won his job back, the police union said Thursday.

Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four Broward County Sheriff’s deputies fired last year for neglect of duty during the Feb. 15, 2018 shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead.

Miller was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene while shots were being fired, but a report from Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Public Safety Commission found that his first radio call wasn’t made until “approximately ten minutes after the first radio traffic about the shooting and approximately five minutes after his arrival.”

He defended his conduct to investigators by saying he had problems communicating over his radio. He explained that he stayed behind “trying to get resources to people in places to help.” That claim, however, was inconsistent with radio recordings and witness statements, which showed no evidence of him doing so.

When the Coral Springs Police Department arrived at the scene and rushed into the school, officers reported seeing Miller and other deputies staying on a nearby road instead of entering the campus. Other officers also reported seeing Miller and other deputies taking cover behind their cars.

“Any law enforcement officer — regardless of rank — who arrives at the scene of an active shooter while shots are still being fired has an obligation to pursue the sound of those gunshots and confront the shooter, but Sgt. Miller remained behind his car in a position of personal safety,” the commission’s report said.

In December, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a committee member, called Miller’s performance an “absolute, total failure,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Miller to be Reinstated After Arbitration 

Now Miller will be reinstated with full seniority, back pay, and other benefits thanks to a recent arbitration ruling made Wednesday. For reference, he was paid more than $137,000 in 2018, including his salary, overtime, medical reimbursements, paid holidays, and other time off, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

However, the decision had nothing to do with his actions on that tragic day. Instead, the arbitrator, Danielle Hargrove, said the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated Miller’s right to due process when firing him in June.

The Sheriff’s Union had argued that the department terminated him two days past the 180-day deadline state laws allow for punishing law enforcement officers once an investigation is completed. The arbitrator ultimately agreed and granted their motion for summary judgment.

Sheriff’s Office Responds 

In a statement, the general counsel for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said the decision was “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.” The counsel also said the agency was exploring all legal options.

The sheriff’s office also added that the arbitrator didn’t address “the conduct of Sergeant Miller on the day children and adults were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while he stood by. Nowhere in the decision is he vindicated for his lack of action on that day.”

On top of that, the current Broward County Sheriff, Gregory Tony, said he still believes he made the right call in firing Miller.

“I stood by the termination then, I stand by it now,” he said Thursday.

“The arbitration process is always part of the final aspect for any employee that is terminated or suffers some form of disciplinary action that I take, and I understand that’s always going to be on the table. But it’s not going to change my decision-making, in terms of doing what’s right for this community.”

Family members of the shooting victims were also outraged by the decision. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at the school, tweeted that Miller should immediately resign.

Miller’s attorney, Gary Lippman, said at a news conference Thursday that the union had been prepared to address Miller’s firing “on the merits,” but it first filed a motion addressing the violation of his procedural rights.

Though Miller’s actions on the day of the shooting have faced heavy criticism, the public safety commission’s investigation found widespread problems with law enforcement’s response, including flawed 911 and radio systems, deputy failures, and an “abysmal” response from school resource officer Scot Peterson.

Peterson’s case was arguably the most notorious after the shooting, as he was on campus when shots broke out, yet failed to confront the gunman. Peterson was charged last June with child negligence, culpable negligence, and perjury. He pleaded not guilty and his lawyers called the charges “politically motivated retribution.” 

See what others are saying: (Insider)  (CNN) (NBC News

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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