Book Review – Why Meadow Died (Pollack, 2019)

On Valentine’s Day, 2018, a school shooter attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The attacker’s trial is still in limbo, 3 years later. The attack was noteworthy for several reasons.

Law enforcement response was terrible. Slow and ineffective, with officers remaining outside the school, not entering to stop the shooter, who stopped the attack on his own, attempting to escape the school by blending in with those fleeing the building. This article from the Miami Herald details all the failures.

Sheriff Scott Israel was fired. Officer Scot Peterson retired but has faced criminal and civil trials for his inaction. Other officers that were fired for failure to act have been rehired with back pay. Some of the Parkland students became media celebrities, getting funding from anti-gun groups to be the new faces of the gun control movement. (March for Our Lives leader David Hogg recently announced his plans to start up a “woke” pillow company.)

I’m certified by the state of Texas to teach the School Safety class – the course developed by the Department of Public Safety to train armed teachers for active shooter response in schools. In the past I’ve reviewed other books on other active shooter incidents. They all tell the same story: warning signs ignored by bureaucrats and law enforcement, slow, ineffective response by law enforcement, refusal of those same administrators and cops to consider or support the idea of allowing teachers, staff or school visitors with carry permits to carry on school property, and the usual demands for new gun restrictions from elites, the media and the professional gun control lobbyists. Most often the requested law changes would have had no impact on the outcome of the incident, since the type of gun used or the capacity of the gun really doesn’t matter when the victims are unarmed and have limited capacity to fight back. In the past, I’ve written about the “reloading fallacy” – the myth that reducing magazine capacity can produce any change in outcome in an active shooter incident.

Most recently, a judge ruled that the school district and gov’t officials had “no duty” to warn students about the dangers posed by the potential school shooter.

Why Meadow Died

Grieving father Andrew Pollack encountered all the problems and standard roadblocks common to every school shooting, and he documents all of them in depth in his book. The book provides insight into the life history of the shooter, the numerous institutional failures, the ignored warning signs, and the bureaucratic CYA mentality more concerned with protecting careers and protecting the myth that partisan policies were “working” than with protecting the students in the school.

The Broward county situation, as explained in the book, is particularly awful, with those at the top eager to make their county a nationally recognized poster child for ending the “school to prison pipeline”, even if it means manipulating the numbers, ignoring crimes, and “mainstreaming” students that would have received better attention at special schools instead of being pushed back in to the general population at a public high school. Their approach certainly advanced their own careers but did nothing to help the at-risk students in need of extra attention, nor to protect the regular students from school violence.

As with the life history of every other school shooter or mass killer, the murderer had a long history of bad behavior, obsession with violence, abuse of animals, threats and injuries to those around him, bitterness, hate and a total lack of empathy for others. His family, other students and teachers that had to deal with him were all scared of him, and many predicted that he would eventually become a school shooter. Somewhere between 25-49 law enforcement interactions with him — early warnings – were ignored or deliberately hidden.

The third part of the book details the attempt of the Parkland parents to mount a political challenge to replace many of the school board members and other county officials responsible for all levels of the policies that failed to protect the students. Broward residents in a strongly Democratic county, cared more for maintaining partisan control than improving public safety, and all the candidates the Parkland parents organized and supported were defeated.

Reading this book will probably make you depressed and/or angry, as it tells the same story that is repeated over and over again in school districts all over the US. The names change but the behaviors remain the same.

Why should you read it? As a cautionary tale, to understand how these situations develop. It can motivate you to pay attention to local school board elections and sheriff elections, not just state and national politics. As of this writing, most Texas school districts do not allow graduates of the state-police designed School Safety (armed teacher) program to carry on school property, even though they have been trained to a higher standard defined by our state’s experts on firearms and deadly force. In that regard, most of Texas, certainly the major metro areas, are no better than Broward County. There’s still work to be done, and what happened in Parkland is a grim reminder of why that work needs to be done at the local, county and state level to do more to protect students.

Since writing the book, Andrew Pollack has spoken at major national events, appeared on news programs, has written for the Federalist and other publications, and briefly served as president of John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Institute when John Lott was employed by the federal Department of Justice during the Trump administration.

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