More than 500 pack school-safety forum amid cheers and scorn for superintendent

A town hall on school safety turned raucous Monday as supporters of embattled Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie packed J.P. Taravella High, frequently drowning out the voices of his fiercest critics.

Although concerns about arming teachers and the lack of metal detectors were addressed, the crowd grew far more passionate on the question of whether Runcie should stay or go.

Many Parkland parents called for Runcie to resign during recent closed-door safety meetings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the site of the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre that killed 17 people.

“As much as some people want to get rid of Bob Runcie, we feel just as strongly it ain’t gonna happen,” State Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Pompano Beach, said to wild applause from supporters and a smaller number of boos and heckles from critics.

Several black churches brought buses to take people to the meeting. In addition to more than 500 people inside the packed auditorium, several hundred more listened through a live feed in the school cafeteria.

Police officers stopped people from walking into the auditorium after the event started at 6:30 p.m., saying there was no more room. One officer tried to keep a reporter who had already been in the auditorium from re-entering.

The crowd frequently invoked God and religion into their speeches.

“I pray God continues to give you strength to endure this ongoing nightmare,” said Brian Johnson, vice mayor of West Park. “An entire community is watching you and admire your strength.”