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School, Sheriff Had 'No Legal Duty' to Protect Students in Mass Shooting

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at a Parkland high school, and changed the lives of untold survivors.

Fifteen survivors of the massacre sued the school for failing to protect them, but a federal judge dismissed their lawsuit. The judge said the school and sheriff's officials had "no legal duty" to protect them.

It's another painful chapter in the ongoing tragedy of violence in America's schools. And the survivors' case, for now, is closed.


Their lawsuit named six defendants, including school deputy Scot Peterson. He was the only armed person on campus when the shooter arrived, but took refuge outside the school.

"His arbitrary and conscience-shocking actions and inactions directly and predictably caused children to die, get injured, and get traumatized," the lawsuit claimed.

Judge Judith Bloom said Petersen may be liable for wrongfully searching a student's backpack that day. Otherwise, she dismissed the claims.

She said the shooter -- not the school or officials -- was to blame for everyone's injuries.

A Student Backpack

Bloom cited DeShaney v. Winnebago County, which held that the due process clause "is phrased as a limitation on the state's power to act, not as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of safety and security."

However, a state judge in a separate lawsuit reached a different conclusion. Judge Patti Enlander Henning rejected Peterson's argument that he had no legal duty to protect the students.

Kristoffer Budham, who represented the plaintiffs, said they are considering their options.

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