Victims and families of victims of the November Oxford school shooting in Michigan filed a lawsuit against the Oxford school district and school administrators, accusing them of violating legally mandated school safety policies and of violating students’ constitutional rights.
The lawsuit accused administrators of failing to notify law enforcement of the actions of the accused shooter leading up to the shooting.
Administrators named in the lawsuit include Superintendent Timothy Throne, principal Steven Wolf, dean of students Nicholas Ejak, student counselor Shawn Hopkins, Superintendent Kenneth Weaver and four teachers, including the teacher who caught the alleged shooter looking at ammunition for his gun online while in class.
The lawsuit was jointly filed by the parents of Justin Shilling and Tate Myre, who were killed in the shooting, and representatives for four minors who were injured in the shooting.
The lawsuit alleges that accused school shooter Ethan Crumbley had exhibited “concerning behavior that indicated psychiatric distress, suicidal or homicidal tendencies and the possibility of child abuse and neglect.”
On Nov. 11, weeks before the shooting, Crumbley brought a severed bird’s head to the Oxford high school and placed it in the boy’s bathroom. While other students found and reported it, school administrators including the principal and district administrators concealed this information from staff and parents, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that the school administration sent an email to parents on Nov. 12 telling them they have reviewed concerns they received and they have investigated all information provided to them and deemed there had been “no threat to our building nor our students.”
Several parents raised concerns about the threats to students made on social media and about multiple severed animal heads at the school to the principal on or around Nov. 16, the lawsuit alleges. But, the school district dismissed concerns raised by students and parents as “not credible,” according to the lawsuit.
Wolf, the principal, sent parents an email confirming that there was no threat at the school and assumptions made on social media “were merely exaggerated rumors,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit claims other students saw Crumbley with shell casings and live ammunition rounds one day before the shooting.
The suit also accuses one of the teachers, Pam Parker Fine, of violating the law by failing to contact child protective services, as required, in response to her being presented with evidence that Crumbley was researching ammunition in class and the refusal of Crumbley’s parents to respond to her call. The lawsuit alleges she was required to notify police, specifically the high school’s liaison officer, of the possibility that Crumbley was a victim of child abuse and neglect and posed a risk to himself and others.
Jacqueline Kubina, a second teacher named in the suit who found Crumbley looking up ammunition in class, is also accused of violating the law by failing to report it to law enforcement.
The suit also alleges that Ejak, the dean of students, and Hopkins, a student counselor, failed to search Crumbley’s backpack or have local law enforcement search it the day of the shooting despite having “reasonable cause to do so.” This was after teachers had found his drawings, including a drawing of people with gunshot wounds and text next to it saying, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
The school had called Crumbley’s parents to the school to address the issue the morning of the shooting, but the Crumbley parents refused to take their child home. Hopkins had warned them the morning of the shooting that if they did not take Crumbley to counseling within 48 hours he would be “following up,” the lawsuit alleged.
The lawsuit alleged Crumbley’s parents refusing to address the issue was evidence of child abuse and neglect, which the dean of students and student counselor were legally required to report, but they did not.
Ejak and Hopkins “deliberately” conducted the meeting with Crumbley and his parents without the safety liaison officer or other local law enforcement, “preventing a proper and through investigation and lawful search of Crumbley’s backpack, which would have prevented this tragedy,” the lawsuit alleged.
The defendants’ actions were “reckless” and put the lives of the victims “at substantial risk of serious and immediate harm,” the lawsuit alleged. The lawsuit claimed that due to the school and district administrators’ knowledge before the shooting began, “it was foreseeable that [Crumbley] would carry out such acts of violence.”
The lawsuit also alleged that the district violated the victims’ constitutional right to be free from danger.
“While this new lawsuit won’t remedy the pain and suffering these families have gone through, it will certainly hold the school district and its officials accountable for their role in not properly supervising and training teachers and counselors, who have an obligation to ensure students remain safe,” said Ven Johnson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement.
Lawyers are requesting damages in addition to interest, costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as punitive and/or exemplary damages.
“With the alarming number of red flags and desperate cries for help that Ethan’s parents, teachers, counselors and administrators all somehow missed, this mass shooting absolutely could and should have been prevented,” Johnson said.