As Scot Peterson trial unfolds, former Parkland principal helps community recover

Ty Thompson, founding member of Principal Recovery Network, wants more protection in schools
Ty Thompson, the former principal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, speaks to WPTV on June 7, 2023.jpg
Posted at 5:03 PM, Jun 08, 2023

PARKLAND, Fla. — The second court trial is underway bringing memories of a school shooting rushing back for the Parkland community.

Former Broward Sheriff's Office deputy Scot Peterson is charged with seven counts of felony child neglect for not preventing some of the killings that happened when he was the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.


"Every time a school shooting comes up, it brings everything back. And that's why it's almost like taking one step forward and two steps back," said Ty Thompson, the former principal at Stoneman Douglas High School. "Every time we turn around, there's something else going on and it brings it right back. It's difficult."

Thompson has turned his pain into purpose.

"This is the group that no one wants to be a part of," Thompson said. "But we have really rallied as far as being able to develop some things and work as a cohesive unit to be able to really help people when it comes to the recovery effort. Hence the name Principal Recovery Network."

Thompson is a founding member of the Principal Recovery Network, a group of about 20 school leaders who have tragically experienced gun violence on their campuses.

"How can we make a positive out of all this negative?" Thompson said. "We're hoping we're going to be able to use our power as this group to advocate for some policies to move things forward."

The group spent time in Washington D.C. this week meeting with members of Congress, the Department of Education, and Homeland Security to share their message and the need for more legislation to support mental health, wellness, and safety in schools.

At the same time back home, another chapter in the Stoneman Douglas shooting with the trial now underway for former school resource officer Scot Peterson, who did not go inside the building when the shooting happened in 2018.

Peterson is charged with child neglect. But his attorney argues Peterson didn't know where the shooter was.

"We've got 22 witnesses under subpoena who will come in here and tell you that they, too, heard the same shots my client did and could not discern precisely where the shots were coming from," Peterson's defense attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, said during opening statements on Wednesday.

Thompson said it retraumatizes the community with every turn in the case. But he stays keyed in.

"I feel like I have to be in tune with what's happening. So if something comes up, I'm mentally prepared for how I can help them — whoever is calling me — get through it," Thompson said.

The former principal added it's been therapeutic to form the Principal Recovery Network.

"We're just out here to help the next, unfortunately, poor soul that has to go through this, because they shouldn't have to go through it alone," Thompson said.

And the group's work is just beginning.

"I think the only way things are going to start to move forward is if we can humanize the situation," Thompson said. "And the only way you are going to do that is if you have people like us who have been through this to get in front of a group to tell our story and how we can move things forward."

For more information about the Principal Recovery Network, click here.