When a society denies human depravity and sin, the results can be absolutely devastating. And this week on The Roys Report, we’ll be exploring what led to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 people. Joining me will be Max Eden, an author and investigator who says the shooter clearly communicated his murderous intent. But instead of expelling him, the school sought to heal him, and to correct the “injustices” that it believed caused his violence. I really hope you can join us for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life and on Sunday night at 7 on AM 560 The Answer!
. . . is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Before joining MI, he was program manager of the education policy studies department at the American Enterprise Institute. Eden’s research interests include early education, school choice, and federal education policy. He was coeditor, with Frederick M. Hess, of The Every Student Succeeds Act: What It Means for Schools, Systems, and States (2017). Eden’s work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets, such as the Journal of School Choice, Encyclopedia of Education Economics and Finance, Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, National Review, Claremont Review of Books, and The Weekly Standard. He holds a B.A. in history from Yale University.
Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
JULIE ROYS: Well, it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. But according to my guest today, it was also the most preventable. Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re examining what led to the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. That shooting in Parkland, Florida, claimed the lives of 17 people. But my guest today says the shooter was a psychopath with an established pattern of violence and murderous intent. But administrators did nothing to stop him. Why? Well, in part because of career ambition and bad, liberal policies. But more fundamentally, because administrators had a faulty view of both reality and mankind.
My guest today is co-author of a new book Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students. This book is already a number-one best-seller on Amazon and it actually doesn’t release until Tuesday! But I’ve been able to read a pre-release copy. And what this book describes is absolutely shocking. When he was just 2 years old, the Parkland shooter—Nicolas Cruz—reportedly tossed a 4-month-old baby into a pool. In pre-K, Cruz had to wear a restrictive harness just to ride the school bus. In middle school, he made a video of himself drowning a cat. In high school, Cruz was constantly talking about guns, a desire to kill, and even to cannibalize other people. He vandalized Stoneman Douglas High School, left death threats, attacked other students, and brought weapons to school. But instead of expelling Cruz, administrators tried to manage his behavior. And instead of arresting him, administrators and police minimized his behavior. Again, the question is why? Why didn’t administrators or someone in authority do something?
Well, joining me to discuss this is Max Eden. He’s the co-author of Why Meadow Died. He’s also a senior fellow at The Manhattan Institute who’s done extensive research on education policy and school discipline. So Max, welcome! It is a pleasure to have you!
MAX EDEN: Yeah, thank you so much for having me, Julie.
JULIE ROYS: So, Max, help us understand this mind-boggling failure that led this school to really ignore all of these red flags and allow this violent man really free reign to wreak havoc there at the school. What happened?
MAX EDEN: Yes. It’s a big story to tell. So I think it might be good to start with a little bit of what happened with him in middle school—a little bit of what happened with him in high school. Which both cases relate to broader themes and as you said it’s kind of a misconception of the notion of man, that is kind of reigning in the way that schools look at kids, right? And in middle school, the student, his behavior was recorded. He was suspended every other day for a calendar year. He was talking about guns and any chance he could get he was threatening students. He was talking to them about skinning animals. Teachers were so scared of him that they eventually said that he can’t walk anywhere in school without a security guard next to him. And when that wasn’t enough, they called his mom to have his mom walk with him and the security guard in school. This went on for a year, at this level, before they managed to transfer him to a specialized school. And that relates to, you know, the way that schools view disturbed students as having a disability and requiring a whole lot of paperwork to properly and scientifically manage rather than understanding that, you know, there is evil within some young men and some young women. So yeah, we can talk more about that later. The other, kind of starting point is what happened with him in high school, in which case his behavior wasn’t recorded. We have security staff; you have teachers saying he was brought to the office all the time. But you don’t see a record for him. You have students saying we told administrators that he threatened to kill us. And you don’t see a record of that either. You know, the only time he was officially disciplined, in his first semester, was a time when his normal assistant principal was off campus. And then they took him drawing swastikas on lunchroom tables, labeled it vandalism and did nothing further. That relates to this pressure to try to fix the so-called school-to-prison pipeline by lowering suspensions, lowering expulsions, lowering arrests, basically pressuring school administers to show that there are no problems, in reality, by not recording them. And so, every step of the way, there were these decisions that were made that were obviously grossly irresponsible but made perfect sense given the policies and the policies made perfect sense given the kind of ideology that was reigning in the Broward County schools. And is becoming ever more pervasive across American education in general.
JULIE ROYS: Well, yeah, you’re right. Reigning in Broward County but the reason we’re talking about this is because you would think after something like this happens, administrators would go, “wow this was a big mistake. Let’s make sure we’re not doing this anywhere in the country.” But it’s kind of the exact opposite. This is reigning throughout our schools. And you’re right. There’s this ideology behind it. And it’s one that doesn’t recognize evil. It seems to me, it sort of paints evil as not something as we understand it in the Judeo-Christian world view, that it’s something that is from the depravity of mankind. Our rebellion against God. That we are fallen creatures. But now evil is something that’s sort of a social construct and it’s often because of the oppression that we’ve experienced and so we have these social justice policies that are instituted in the schools. One of them, I understand, this Promise Program actually keeps students in public schools from being reported to police, being arrested for crimes that they should be arrested for. That would have given, Nicolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, an arrest warrant so when he went to get a gun, he wouldn’t have been able to. But they didn’t do that because of this Promise Program. Describe that program—where it comes from and how it was instituted.
MAX EDEN: Yeah, so, I’ll start with the program and get to where it comes from and work our way back to the ideology behind it, right? The Promise Program on paper, basically gives students 3 free misdemeanors every single year. So your 4th misdemeanor in a given year, you can then finally talk to the school resource officer. Whether or not the school resource officer does anything is still open. But 3 free misdemeanors a year instead of being introduced to the juvenile justice system. And you go to this alternative education sight for a few days where, you know, nothing really happens. In reality the leader there was a horrifically abusive woman who demeaned her colleagues consistently and was eventually removed. But when you give kids 3 free misdemeanors a year and when you also, you know, on the side literally train principals to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement or refuse to let law enforcement on campus, if they’re trying to execute an arrest warrant, then arrests will go down. And if your view of, you know, your view of men, your view of kids, if you look at these spreadsheets where you see African American students, students who are designated with disabilities, are “disproportionately” disciplined, disproportionately arrested. If when you see that you don’t admit that this behavior can have a root in, you know, what is going on within the child, that can have roots in what’s going on in the child’s home and society around them. Then these disparities become entirely inexplicable in any way other than this must be the school’s fault, you know. This must be a product of institutional racism, institutional oppression—that the school and the police are, you know, actively pushing on innocent young men and women. And if you think that, then there should be no cost to dramatically decreasing arrests. But, you know, it’s not quite the case. The Promise Program was a national leader in this. It was the diversionary program and then all these other leniency policies around it which are very quickly taken by the Obama Department of Education. Superintendent Arnie Duncan, who was a former colleague of Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie, and he saw oh arrests are going down. This looks great. These disparities are being closed. This is clearly working. And he took this policy and made it into a federal guidance document that basically threatened and coerced school districts across the country saying if you don’t follow suit, by trying to get all these numbers down, we will come after you. And we might take away your money. And so the ideology behind it that started as a more a contained thing, you know, used to be just the province of some academics has now become those functionally and also ideologically kind of de rigueur for public school across the country.
JULIE ROYS: So, it is instituted all over and Arnie Duncan, those of us listening in Chicago where this show originates, know that name. He was very instrumental here in Chicago then goes to the federal government and institutes a lot of these programs. Again, this was under the Obama Administration. But is it still happening right now?
MAX EDEN: Well, the federal push for it is no longer happening. After the Parkland shooting, the Trump Administration made a School Safety Commission to investigate what went wrong, issue recommendations. One recommendation was to stop pushing these policies at the federal level. So the Department of Education is no longer threatening school districts to implement these policies but that doesn’t mean that they’re going anywhere.
JULIE ROYS: Right and they have the same administrators.
MAX EDEN: Oh yeah. The same administrators, the same incentives. I mean, they’re going nowhere fast unless parents wake up.
JULIE ROYS: Right. Well again, that’s Max Eden, author of Why Meadow died and a senior fellow with The Manhattan Institute. I’m Julie Roys. You’re listening to The Roys Report. If you’d like to weigh in, the number to call is 312-660-2594.
JULIE ROYS: Well, was the Parkland School shooting the most preventable mass murder in US history? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And according to my guest today, the shooter who killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School last year, had a long history of violent and disturbing behavior. But administrators and police refused to recognize and contain evil—and instead tried to manage and heal it.
Again, joining me today is Max Eden, author of Why Meadow Died, and a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute. This book releases on Tuesday and if you’d like to get a copy, I am giving away about 5 copies today. Just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway and you can enter that giveaway to receive the book. Again, JulieRoys.com/giveaway to get the book Why Meadow Died. Also, you can join our conversation. The number to call: 312-660-2594. Or you can join the discussion online by going to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. Or on Twitter, my handle is @reachjulieroys.
Max, I want to, I know we’re talking a lot about sort of the below the water line issues; the ideology that leads to these shootings and just ignoring these violent tendencies in people. But I also want to honor the victim. And this is why this book is called Why Meadow Died. Meadow was an 18-year-old student at Stoneman Douglas High School. She lost her life tragically because administrators didn’t do what they were supposed to do. Her father, Andrew, I understand, now has become sort of a crusader, even though he doesn’t like that name. But he is really making some changes at the policy level because of what happened to his daughter. Can you tell us a little bit more about Meadow—who she was and how she lost her life in this tragic shooting?
MAX EDEN: Yeah. I mean Meadow was, you know, Andy describes her, my co-author Andrew Pollack, describes her as an all-American girl, you know. A girl who could go off-roading, do ATV’s with her brothers one day and, you know, be kind of the super-model, girly girl the next. The kind of girl who whenever there was anybody new at school, she would go up to them and she would introduce herself and talk to them and then try to figure out who would this person like. And how can I introduce this person to a friend and make this person feel welcome, you know. She was, I never got the chance to meet her, but she was both, you know, a beautiful, kind soul but also one who could be, you know, fierce and protective over others. And one thing Andy says with mixed pride—very mixed emotions, you know. She was shot 5 times on the 3rd floor of the school and she crawls across the hallway, sees a Freshman and tries to drape her body over the freshman’s body to protect her, only to be shot 4 more times between the two. A gunman who got on campus that day despite the fact that security monitors saw him getting out of the Uber. Recognized him as—that’s crazy boy, that’s the guy who we thought would shoot up the school. I can see that he’s carrying a rifle bag. I don’t want to approach him because maybe he has a hand gun but even after I hear large percussion noises coming out of the school, I don’t want to call a Code Red. Because I didn’t see the weapon and if it’s not really, you know, a mass murder going on, I’d be the one to get in trouble if I called for a Code Red. So, you know, in that one incident it’s kind of relates to what happened the whole way through. This effort to not, you know, look bad on paper, by the adults, led to these extremely bad decisions all the way through that culminated in the security guard, whose one job is to alert the school to an intruder. Knowing who just came on campus, being pretty sure what was going on and still not being willing to make a call that would have saved her life for fear that he would look bad for doing it.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. That chapter where you describe the shooting, I mean, you just can’t read that chapter and not just be very emotionally affected. I was reading it yesterday. My husband comes in and he’s like “What’s the matter with you.” And I’m like, “Oh my word.” I mean it’s so tragic. And I think the thing that made me the angriest was the actual person on the grounds, on campus, who actually had a gun that day, who was too cowardly to do anything. The one police officer who was there. Right?
MAX EDEN: Yes and more than that. I mean, Scott Peterson, the school Resource Officer, was the one man on campus with a gun. He was taken over to the building in a little golf cart and rather than approach the building, he went to the building next door and remained in place for 48 minutes. And not only did he remain in place, he actually called out, do not approach the 1200 building where it was happening. Stay at least 500 feet away. And maybe in part, because of that warning, maybe not, there were 7 other Broward Sheriff’s deputies who arrived on scene while the shooting was still unfolding. And all 7 of them remained outside the building. Not one of the 8 police officers who were on the scene, while there were shots ringing out from within a school, went into that school, you know. The shooter would have had 11 full minutes to himself in a building with 800 students because not one man, sworn to protect the public, decided to step into that building.
JULIE ROYS: Man. And isn’t sort of the protocol now that the minute you hear anything, the protocol is you’re, policemen, security, everybody is supposed to go and confront the gunman. Yes?
MAX EDEN: Well, in most places yes. I mean, ever since Columbine, the protocol has been if there’s a shooting, if there’s a school shooting, you don’t negotiate, you don’t wait outside, you go straight in. But Broward Sheriff, Scott Israel, quite an ideological kind of guy, in many ways, he changed his policy from, his active shooter policy, from the deputies shall go in, to the deputies may go in. So, in this sick way, with these 8 deputies, standing outside the building, thinking to themselves full well, must have been thinking, there are children being murdered right in front of me. The decision to not go in was actually in accordance with the policy set by their boss.
JULIE ROYS: Unbelievable! And, you know, this Broward County Sheriff, the quote that’s in the book is absolutely breathtaking. He had a quote, “We measure our success by the kids we keep out of jail, not by the kids we put in jail.” So you have a Sheriff’s Department who, so it’s not just schools who led to this failure and this shooting, it was the Sheriff’s Department as well. They received, initially I think it, wasn’t it reported that they received 23 calls to Nicolas Cruz’ home. And they protested and said, no, no, no it wasn’t 23. Well then when they when there went more research, and went into the books, we found out they received 45 calls to Cruz’ home, none of which resulted in an arrest. Correct?
MAX EDEN: That’s correct. And this is, again, you know, to take it below water. This is downstream from the ideology we were talking about earlier right? I mean, I think the Judeo-Christian view of the State’s rule of law, is to try to contain evil, and try to maintain order. But this alternative division suggests that, you know, it’s the police who are the oppressors and any apparent statistical inequities are a product of police iniquity. And that the police need to be reined in. So when you, you know, when you do that, you think to yourself, well we have to stop arresting kids full stop. That is how we do our jobs as, you know, members of law enforcement by not enforcing our law. Because we view ourselves to be untrustworthy. That’s the Sheriff Israel ideology. And I think the most remarkable, you know, concrete manifestation of that in this place, in this case, was a mom called the Broward Sheriff’s office. And she said my daughter told me that she saw a post on Instagram, by this individual, saying I am going to get this gun and I’m going to shoot up the school. And the Broward Sheriff’s Deputy, Edward Eason, allegedly said to her, well that’s protected by the First Amendment.
JULIE ROYS: Oh, oh, oh! Man!
MAX EDEN: Which, suffice to say, it’s not. And then when the mom said well how could we prevent him from getting a gun when he turns 18? And he said well that’s protected by the Second. Which, suffice to say, if he threatened to kill, it’s not. But if you’re under pressure to not arrest juveniles, you’re not going to arrest juveniles.
JULIE ROYS: That is unbelievable. I think that Sheriff’s deputy needs to be instructed a little bit that there is something called the clear and present danger with speech. And when there’s a clear and present danger, that is not protected. That is one when we say, no, you can’t have that speech. I mean, these are death threats. And that wasn’t the only one, was it?
MAX EDEN: Oh no, that wasn’t the only one. And he threatened to kill several of his classmates while in Stillman Douglas. And they told me, they told, they brought it to the school’s attention. Nothing was done. I think, you know, the other maybe most dramatic, jaw-dropping thing for your listeners to understand and again they need to understand, it’s just . . .
JULIE ROYS: All right. Hold that thought. Hold that thought, Max. When we come back, we’ll get to that jaw-dropping thing that you have to say. Again, the number to call 312-660-2594. I’ll get to your calls when I come back. And again, we’ll hear more from Max Eden, author of Why Meadow Died and a senior fellow with The Manhattan Institute.
When a society denies the existence of evil, the results can be devastating. Welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re discussing the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history—and the faulty worldview that led to it. That shooting occurred on February 14, 2018, at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And the shooter—Nikolas Cruz—had a well-documented history of violence, death threats, and an obsession with guns. Yet liberal school administrators refused to acknowledge evil. They refused to acknowledge the depravity of mankind. And as a result, 17 people lost their lives.
Joining me today is Max Eden, co-author of Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created the Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students. Our studio lines are open, and you can join our discussion, as well. The number to call is 312-660-2594. Or you can join the online discussion by going to Facebook.com/ReachJulieRoys. And on Twitter, our handle is @ReachJulieRoys. Max, I want to get to a caller who just called. But first, I want to give you an opportunity to, you had a jaw-dropping point of detail that you were going to mention right before the break. So let me give you an opportunity to mention that.
MAX EDEN: Yeah, I mean so, it’s the, it’s kind of a, there was this one week, the week that he turned 18 years old, he got into this big fight at school. He called a student the N-word, attacked him, several students wrote statements to the administrators saying, you know, “this kid has threatened to kill us, brought knives to school, brought bullets to school. We’re so scared of him.” That same week, the mental health authorities were called out 3 times, once to his house, twice to his school, for concerns that he was getting into fights with his mother. That he was trying to kill himself. That he had written “kill” at the top of his notebook because he was getting into a fight with his mom about whether or not he could buy a gun. Not one of those times did the mental health authorities think, “Oh, we need to take a look at this kid. Do we need to take him under observation?” And when faced with all of this, the school administrators didn’t think to themselves, “Wow, this kid is dangerous. He needs to be introduced to the juvenile justice system.” What they were operating under was, according to the superintendent, the philosophy that we aren’t going to continue to arrest our kids and give them a criminal record. So rather than have him arrested at any point in this week, based on his behavior, they literally said to him, “You are not allowed to bring a backpack to school anymore. And we’re going to frisk you every day for fear that you might be carrying a deadly weapon.” So, something is profoundly wrong when adults who we trust with the care of our students can look at a kid and say, “You’re too dangerous. We think you’re going to bring in a deadly weapon, so we’re going to prevent you from having the opportunity, frisk you to make super sure, but heaven forbid we introduce you to the police.”
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, well it makes me wonder, what would it take to actually get arrested in Broward County schools when, I mean, this guy did everything you have to do. And we had a caller call in, she’s anonymous, wanted to stay anonymous, didn’t want to stay on the ine, but she said, “Why is it that we have this rights of one person—Nikolas Cruz—that seems to trump all the rights of all these students within the school as well as the teachers and the faculty, clearly a danger to them. Why is that?
MAX EDEN: Yeah, you know, it’s an outgrowth of the ideology, right? I mean, this is, he’s labelled as having a disability, right? And you’re granted a whole bunch of rights if you have a disability. And nothing in federal law says that those rights need to be weighed against the rights of other students. This becomes extremely problematic when we label students who are deeply emotionally disturbed as having an emotional and behavioral disability. At that point, school administrators have to consider their rights and literally aren’t supposed to consider and weigh the rights of other students with them. They need to manage these students with an eye towards their quote-unquote rights. And totally in keeping with all the paperwork burdens to be placed upon them. So, normal human judgment, you know, the decisions that we should be able to trust the adults to make, they can’t make. Because we tell them, “you can only consider the rights of the troubled kids. And you have to do everything you’re doing through a lens of paperwork and bureaucracy rather than intuition and human judgment.”
JULIE ROYS: Right. And to me, if you’re going to follow it to its logical conclusion, we just get rid of our entire penal system, right? I mean, why even have it? Right?
MAX EDEN: Yeah, that is, they got quite close to that in the Broward County schools. This wasn’t in the book. This came out 2 weeks ago in a poll. The Broward teacher’s union polled their teachers. 1287 responded. Out of those teachers, only 3 expected that if a student were to assault a teacher, the student would be arrested.
JULIE ROYS: Good grief.
MAX EDEN: Compared to 7 who thought the student would get a treat.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. And I have to say that my husband spent his career in the public-school system. He’s a retired public-school teacher. And I remember him escorting a student down the hall, and the student attacked him. And that student, that was his last day at the school. He was gone. Immediately. So, I thank God that the school he worked in seemed to acknowledge that this is important. And that these students can’t be in there if they’re behaving that way. But clearly, not happening in Broward County. And I want to go to this, you know, this idea that these kids have emotional disabilities. It seems to me this flows from this sort of naturalistic worldview where, you know, every child is born into this world with sort of a clean slate. And it just must be these bad influences that make these children turn evil. Because there isn’t real evil in their hearts. There couldn’t be any true depravity. There couldn’t actually be some demonic forces at play in the world. It’s all some sort of naturalistic thing. We have to come up with an evolutionary, you know, way of describing this. And yet this kid—Nikolas Cruz—I mean, an adopted kid, goes into this home, as far as we know, it seems like we have a mother who is somewhat of an enabler. And she did allow him to watch violent video games, and maybe we’ll talk about that a little bit too. But there doesn’t seem to be, other than the fact that his adoptive father died—but he was acting out before then—I mean, can we explain this child’s evil behavior?
MAX EDEN: I mean, in my opinion, it was inborn. It was, whether you’re of the religious or scientific persuasion, he’s born the son of a crack-addict career-criminal mother. His old sister was also a criminal. He throws an infant into a pool when he’s 2 years old. There’s something in the core of his soul that is, you know, that tends toward evil. But what I write in the book is that, you know, it’s not a unique thing. We’re supposed to build our institutions to contain our demons. And if he had institutions that were working around him, that would have seen him for what he was and responded to him as what he was, then I think that what was just an inborn, inbred desire to kill and destroy could have been contained. But he only had a mother who was herself kind of a floating atom, disconnected from the community and no religious roots. A school, a mental health system, a police force, all of which were oriented toward the path of least resistance. You know, nobody around him looked at him and thought, “there is something deeply wrong and we need to take an aggressive hand on this.” I feel like if they did, it could have been a . . .
JULIE ROYS: Max, we need to go to break. But when we come back, I want to discuss that more. Was there something demonic going on with this guy? I really do wonder that. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. We’ll be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Well, did Parkland school shooting victim Meadow Pollack die because school administrators failed to acknowledge the depravity of mankind and the existence of evil? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we’re talking about what some have called the most preventable school shooting in U.S. history. The shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, claimed the lives of 17 people. But the shooter, who had a violent history, never should have been able to buy guns. And he never should have been placed in the regular school population.
That’s according to my guest this morning this morning, Max Eden, co-author of Why Meadow Died—a book on the shooting and policies that led to it. That book releases on Tuesday. If you’d like a copy, just go to, we’re giving away several of them, go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway and you can enter to win a copy of this book. We’ve had an outstanding conversation today. If you missed any part of it, I want to let you know that you can listen to it again. We’ll have a podcast up at my website in about an hour after the show ends. So just go to JulieRoys.com. Click on the podcast tab. Also, I also want to let you know that next week, leading apologist, Dr. Michael Brown, will be joining me to answer skeptics’ toughest questions about Christianity. You may remember, about a month ago, Hillsong songwriter, Marty Sampson, said that he was losing his faith because he couldn’t find answers to questions like, “why would God send anyone to hell?” Or, “Aren’t there a lot of contradictions in the Bible?” Well Dr. Brown is someone who has been discussing tough questions like that for the past 40 years. And if you’d like to submit a question for Dr. Brown to answer, just email us at The Roys Report at JulieRoys.com. But returning to our discussion this morning, again joining me is Max Eden. And Max before the break we were talking just shortly and you know, when you talk about this in the general population people kind of look at you like you’re a little nuts, if you think that something might have a demonic component. But like you said, this shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had seemed troubled and actually violent from the very beginning. Even as early as two years old and even in Pre-K he was having all sorts of trouble. In kindergarten having all sorts of trouble. What do you think about that? Do you think there was some demonic component that this man needed to be treated by people that understand the spiritual dimension?
MAX EDEN: Yeah, I mean, I think there was certainly evil to it. I am somewhat agnostic on the demonic mechanism, but I think, if you’re less agnostic than that, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest there was something like that at work. I mean, this is a kid who, you know, whenever the word gun was mentioned in middle school, he would light up. And just you know, he would get excited. And when he was sent to a specialized school, he told them, you know, “I had a dream of killing and being covered in blood.” I think this extends beyond, you know, normal psychology. Clearly into the realm of evil. He later, you know, told the police officers that he did what he did because of demon voices that he heard in his head. We have some reason to doubt that because we know that he Googled for ways to appear insane after committing murder. But that, you know, doesn’t solve the question. That begs a further question of, you know, what is going on inside a human soul that would Google, “how do I appear insane after killing.” And who would have this clearly expressed desire to kill since a very young age. I mean it goes beyond I think crime, law and order, beyond traditional mental health things, and clearly into the realm of evil. The mechanism of that is somewhat above my pay grade but it is evil.
JULIE ROYS: Well, and didn’t Roxanne Duchamp, is that how you pronounce her name?
MAX EDEN: Yeah, yeah, she said, she mentioned when the killer was staying with them, shortly after his mom died, about a month before, that in the evening she would hole up in her room, kind of barricading the door and hearing demon noises coming out from him. So, you know, there’s a very strong case. The fact pattern is there for anybody persuaded to it. Personally, I am persuaded to the existence of evil. And demonic possession, it’s a mechanism that would fit the facts.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, it sure would. I know I was talking about this last night at the dinner table with my husband and my daughter. We have such delightful conversations at dinner time. But, yeah I mean, I couldn’t help but be talking about this because you read this book and it’s so shocking and it’s disturbing. But when I mentioned this, that Roxanne said she slept, you know, heard these demon noises, slept with the door barricaded and with a machete in hand she said. Which I thought that was interesting—she had a machete at home, it’s not something most of us have—but anyway. She said my daughter said, “Why didn’t they call police?” And I’m like well, you know it happened 45 times and they did absolutely nothing. So, I mean, what do you in that situation? You’ve got this man living at home with these, you know, terrible impulses. But again, everyone seemed to not know what to do about it. We’ve explored the demonic a little bit. I also want to talk about these violent video games. And again, this is one of those things, there’s a lot of kids out there playing violent video games. For the majority of them, they don’t become psychopathic killers as a result. But for some, it seems to have a very bad influence and this guy was pretty much, I mean it sounds like just someone who just played video games all the time, correct?
MAX EDEN: Yes, he and the Newton shooter are very, very similar in this regard. I mean, neither of them had much of a social life beyond online and single player shooting video games. And at his house, his mom, according to a social worker, that whenever he lost at a shooting game that he would become so violent as to punch holes in the wall. She said, you know, my walls are polka dotted from all the spackle I have to use to cover the holes. This kid had no friends, had no, you know, no civil society around him, no religion around him. He went to the school and he played violent video games. And one of his teachers wrote, wrote down, you know, I think this student’s a profound danger to himself and others at the school. I don’t think he can tell the difference between violent video games and reality. So it’s the kind of thing where I think, you know, most kids can play and there will be only a mildly corrupting force. But for it to have this in them, I do think like we’ve seen enough examples where it seems to really, so profoundly warp their understanding of the world that they end up playing out in real life what they’ve played out in video games.
JULIE ROYS: I laugh at the mildly corrupting force yet we seem to be so willing to let it into our homes. The whole violent video game thing, don’t even get me started. The other thing—you just touched on this—but when I was reading your book I was like what? And the teacher said when he loses at X-Box he gets violently angry and I’m sitting there asking myself, why is this kid playing X-Box at school? Can you help me understand that?
MAX EDEN: The teacher recorded his mother saying that.
JULIE ROYS: Oh, his mother’s saying that. OK, I must’ve misread that.
MAX EDEN: The mother, you know, whenever, she didn’t know what to do with him because he needed to be on his X-Box and when he wasn’t on his X-Box he was upset. And then he would get his X-Box and he lost he would get extra upset. And this is part of the failure and I didn’t go into it as much as I could in the book, largely because the woman is dead and there’s no further work to be done. But you know, she had no idea what to do. She knew that her son had profound evil around him and she, a few months before her death, told a bank teller, you know, “if something happens to me, you’ll know it was Nick.” But she genuinely didn’t know what to do. And she didn’t have any community, any support, any religious sort of organization around her that could help her deal with the evil that was in her home.
JULIE ROYS: Right. And that’s another aspect of this, too. I think that there’s this woman, trying to raise a son by herself. Her husband’s passed away, and she has no real family support. She has no faith community. And it used to be in society, those were our backdrops, right? And, I mean, that’s what girded people up. And I know, I mean, for myself that it is what, what is my support. But for a lot of people that don’t have this and so this elimination of sort of understanding of faith and family and even the support where we have often these students who get in trouble. And instead of the family’s sort of, like for me, when I got in trouble as a kid, didn’t happen a lot, but if I ever did, I knew full well that my parents weren’t going to be backing me up. They’re going to be backing the school up and I’d better get in line, right? But it’s kind of the opposite right now, isn’t it at the schools?
MAX EDEN: Yeah, no, it’s flipped. I mean this ideology isn’t just in government, it’s also, you know, amongst parents. Like, “My kid has rights, what are you doing to my kid? If my kid gets in trouble, it must be your fault.” I mean part of the reason why, you know, a student like him at a school like Stoneman Douglas; very upper middle class, affluent, allegedly a very safe school. Students with “disabilities” kind of had the run of the mill because administrators were worried that a parent might come to the school and, you know, basically sue them or make their life heck for trying to proverbially lay a hand on their kid. I think that, you know, it used to be that schools were kind of an outgrowth of the community’s moral order—kind of a further exertion of, you know, the parental influence. But as so many other things in society have inverted or realigned. I think schools are being blamed not only by policy makers, not only by bureaucrats but by parents for any problems that kids experience.
JULIE ROYS: So, for the people listening right now who are like, I want to do something about this. And I know Andrew Pollack has been just such an incredible force in trying to get things done and policies changed. What can we do? How can we be a part of positive change?
MAX EDEN: Yeah. So, the thing that parents need to understand is that the story that we tell in this book is about Parkland and about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But it’s not a story that’s confined to there. This is a story that’s playing out in thousands of schools across America every day because these same policy pressures are at work. You know, heaven forbid it ever again leads to a such an extreme version. But it will and does—every day—lead to violence that goes unaddressed, leads to bullying that is unaddressed. Threats that are allowed to slide by because of this pressure to not take a firm hand. And I think that the first thing parents need to do is to talk to their teachers. And ask them, you know, “Are administrators hiding things? Are they refusing to enforce rules? Is there a student in my kid’s classroom who everybody knows shouldn’t be there?” And the teachers aren’t going to want to speak up because, not to the public as themselves, at least, because they fear retaliation. But they can tell the parents. And if the parents hear this from the teachers, they need to go to the school board members. And they need to say to them, “We know this is what’s going on in our kids’ schools. Our teachers are too afraid to speak out. This is unacceptable and you need to change these policies.” Because like we talked about earlier, the federal government is no longer pushing it but this kind of bureaucratic apparatus that runs education at a higher level is—the inertia there is going to keep on militating towards it. The only thing that can make schools safer is parents getting informed and involved. And going to their school board members to identify these problems are occurring and to demand that these policies change if they are.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I so appreciate my daughter Ashley goes to a Christian school and I appreciate that they have a proper worldview. So, I think they will deal with these sorts of things in that way. But I think it’s important for us, like you say, go to your kids, talk to your kids, find out what’s happening in the schools. And go to the teachers, go to the administrators, get involved as parents. You know scripture says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. It stuns me how people who are so smart can, in some senses, can be so dumb. To me, that’s precisely what led to this Parkland shooting. Administrators and police refusing to see evil as a real thing stemming from the depravity in man’s heart and Satan himself. Instead, they viewed it as a social construct or the result of oppression. They sought to manage it or appease it, instead of confront it and contain it. And as a result, Meadow Pollack and 16 other people, were mowed down by a murderous psychopath.
What’s mind-boggling is that these faulty policies are still in place in many schools. So, appreciate you so much, Max, for writing this book. Thanks for listening today. Again, if you missed any part of this program, just go to JulieRoys.com. You can get the audio there. Thanks so much for listening. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless!