After last year’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Palm Beach County School District joined others across the country in reviewing and attempting to improve security procedures. The focus understandably has been on keeping outsiders intent on violence from intruding on school campuses.
The tragic double murder at Dreyfoos School of the Art in West Palm Beach underscores the importance of also effectively monitoring the district’s thousands of non-teaching employees. Javier Burgos, a custodian at Dreyfoos, is being sought for questioning in the murders of fellow employees Christopher Marshall and Ted Orama, who were found shot to death at the prestigious magnet school on June 19.
As The Post has reported, Mr. Burgos had clashed several times with co-workers, and conflicts in which he was involved had come to the attention of supervisors.
Mr. Burgos was accused of trying to sell a gun to another employee on school grounds. He allegedly grabbed his crotch in front of a female co-worker. Mr. Orama, who was Mr. Burgos’ supervisor, told a school police officer that custodians were afraid of Mr. Burgos and were reluctant to work with him alone. In a July 2010 document, Mr. Orama informed police that other members of his crew had said they expected “that eventually there is going to be a fight.” Police issued instructions about how to respond if an “emergency develops involving threats or other safety concerns.”
When Post reporters initially asked district officials about their handling of issues involving Mr. Burgos, spokesman Jason Shockely said: “Each and every case is taken very seriously and fully documented to ensure proper procedures are followed.” He added, “It was never determined that Javier Burgos committed any criminal activity during his tenure within the District, and any reports relating to Javier Burgos were handled properly.”
That statement was jarring, since it seemed to suggest the district already had gone into a defensive crouch and would be unwilling to thoroughly examine its policies to see if officials had missed red flags. We asked Mr. Shockley for clarification, and he provided a more reassuring answer: “This is still an open police investigation, but the District is conducting an internal review on matters relating to Javier Burgos.”
Of course the district can see that lawsuits are a possibility — or even a certainty. But concern for students and employees surely will require an in-depth review of policies. District officials should be inviting suggestions about how to improve security, and the school board should insist that the public be kept informed.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg
for The Post Editorial Board