School Plans Outside Probe of Its Actions Before Shooting

Oxford administrators let Ethan Crumbley return to class before rampage
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2021 3:45 PM CST
Updated Dec 5, 2021 5:30 PM CST
Experts, Prosecutors Look at School's Responsibility
The US flag flies at half-staff on Thursday outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., site of a mass shooting.   (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Update: The superintendent of Oxford Community Schools said he's ordering an outside investigation of the high school's handling of the case of Ethan Crumbley, the student who was allowed to stay in class shortly before a mass shooting last week killed four students. Tim Throne made the announcement in a letter to families, saying he wants a thorough review by an independent security consultant into whether the school did enough to prevent the shooting. Michigan's attorney general on Sunday offered the assistance of her office. Our original story from Dec. 4 follows:

A 15-year-old student and his parents have been charged in the mass shooting at a school in Michigan, but the debate over responsibility is not over. Oxford High School administrators could face lawsuits or even prosecution, the New York Times reports. After warning signs were spotted, Ethan Crumbley and his parents were called into the school office Tuesday and told the student needed to go into counseling. But officials then let him return to class. The same day, police say, Crumbley opened fire, killing four students. One legal expert called the school's decision "truly astounding."

When Crumbley's parents refused to take their son home, the school had a legal and ethical duty to "remove the student from the classroom and put them in a safe place—safe for other people and safe for themselves," said Catherine Ross, an expert on student rights and a law professor at George Washington University. Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said, "Any individual who had the opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so." She did not rule out prosecution of school administrators or staff. "The question is what did they know and when did they know it," McDonald said, per the Times.

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A Michigan lawyer who represents students who face expulsion from school said he expects a lawsuit. "There is some culpability and responsibility here on the part of the school," Mike Kelly said. The school's defense includes the fact that Crumbley had no disciplinary record at Oxford. That could be the main issue in a lawsuit blaming the school, Kelly said. One advocate said that school officials should have searched Crumbley's bag for weapons but that it's a lot to ask of educators who lack the tools to keep guns out of the building. "You’re putting educators in an impossible position," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (More Ethan Crumbley stories.)

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