A former administrator at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has retired early, in the midst of a Broward school district investigation about his role in last year’s shooting.Jeff Morford was an assistant principal at the school when the massacre that took 17 lives and injured another 17 people occurred on February 14, 2018. He has been accused by a state commission of failing to help prevent such a situation.Morford had signed up for a deferred retirement program last year and was planning to leave in 2023, according to district records. However, his last day was September 4.Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association, says he decided to retire early as a result of “overall trauma” from the massacre. She adds, “He’s been re-traumatized over and over again. He’s just done.”According to Maxwell, prosecutors in the criminal case for killer Nikolas Cruz have required the former assistant principal to repeatedly watch video of the shooting, which killed coach and security monitor Chris Hixon, with whom Maxwell was good friends.The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which is still investigating the tragedy, concluded that Morford had mishandled a September 2016 threat assessment of Cruz, who was a student at the school at that time.A 2018 report from the commission states that Morford was not competent in such tasks, and had never handled such evaluations during his 31-year career.Assistant Principal Denise Reed told the commission, “Jeff is old school. He only did operations. He never did any discipline at where he was at his previous location and so Jeff said: ‘I don’t even know where to find a threat assessment.’”A student told the commission that he and a classmate warned Morford that they were concerned about Cruz being a school shooter, since Cruz had reportedly looked up guns on a school computer, pretended to shoot birds on campus, and alleged that he liked seeing people in pain.The student said that Morford and a deputy did not seem concerned, and that Morford told the student to Google “autism,” implying that Cruz had the condition.The report adds, “Morford told the students that Cruz was being sent to alternative school and they did not need to worry.”The commission asked the district to investigate how Morford handled the threat review. Upon finding that Morford’s inability to answer detailed questions did not seem credible, they hired a law firm to review his actions, as well as those of two other assistant principals and a security specialist. Former Principal Ty Thompson was added to the list last March.Runcie informed the commission that the investigation should be finished later this month or next month.The administrators were transferred to new jobs this summer. Morford had been serving as an assistant principal at Coconut Creek High School, but was reportedly not able to avoid the daily stress caused by the shooting.In addition to his administrative duties, Morford opened a bar in Pompano Beach last summer called the Axe Throwing Society. It features 14 ax-throwing “lanes” that look like fenced-in batting cages, where customers can fling lightweight axes at wooden targets.
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