Red flags missed and evidence erased: Should Oxford high school officials be blamed for mass shootings?

IIt wasn’t long before the term “set precedent” became synonymous with case.

Three days after students Ethan Crumbley accused of carrying out the worst school shooting in America since 2018, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald broke new legal ground by charging his parents with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. wish.

This is a very unusual step for the parents of an accused school shooter to face charges but prosecutors claimed that the Crumbleys were “responsible” for batch shooting on November 30 resulted in the deaths of four students.

As soon as those allegations were made public, the discussion then quickly moved on to the next person who could be held criminally responsible.

The most noted individuals are the leaders of the Oxford school district and the teachers and counselors at Oxford High School.

While 15-year-old Ethan was charged with pulling the trigger, in the two weeks since the assault questions have been raised about the school’s handling of his “disruptive” behavior and whether the case could have been avoided. Deadly massacre or not if officials act otherwise.

Several red flags appeared to have been ignored by school staff in the days leading up to the shooting.

On November 29, Ethan was caught by a school employee looking for ammunition online during class.

Then the next day, a teacher found a disturbing drawing appeared showing a shot victim and the words “thinking won’t stop, help me”.

However, the counselors were pleased with his claim that the cold prophetic scribbles were just a teenager’s design for a video game and also his bag or cupboard. are not searched. Instead, he was able to return to his lesson before allegedly opening fire on his students that afternoon.

On Friday, however, the most explosive charge to date was leveled against the school when it was filed in court that went beyond a statement of negligence that claimed to have destroyed evidence following the assault. labour.

Attorneys for the two sisters who survived the mass shooting allege the school district deleted the social media accounts and website of school administrators while the investigation was underway.

“The defendants not only failed to take the necessary steps to preserve the evidence, but also intentionally destroyed the evidence by deleting websites and social media accounts,” attorney Nora Hanna wrote in the filing Thursday. Six. Detroit Free Press.

“Plaintiffs cannot continue to blind the defendant by looking for evidence that is being destroyed or altered.”

A judge has since ordered the school to keep all evidence related to the case.

Timothy Mullins, an attorney for the school district, considered the allegations “lies” and “disgusting” and said that officials have fully cooperated with investigators from the outset.

“Do you think the school district is keeping the information private? Everything we got was given to the prosecutor… everything they wanted we gave them. “

The suit-carrying siblings, one of whom was shot in the neck in the attack, were the first to seek civil liability on the school district for failing to protect students from what they did. described as a “deranged” and “murderous” suspect.

They are seeking $100 million in a lawsuit that could just be the beginning of the district’s legal woes, with other survivors and victims’ families likely to follow in their footsteps.

Prosecutor Karen McDonald also said she did not rule out bringing criminal charges against school officials.

“Any individual who had a chance to prevent this tragedy should have done so. The question is what did they know and when,” she told a news conference.

James, Ethan and Jennifer Crumbley from left to right in their booking photo


With warning signs missed and evidence allegedly removed, all eyes are now on the school and whether any school staff will be held accountable.

But to what extent should the school be blamed for the massacre?

It’s easier to predict when a child’s anxious behavior will escalate into violence, experts say.

Linda Teplin, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The Independent that many children have “risk factors” but very few will become mass shooters.

“Usually we say then people should know, the school should know because the child has a risk factor,” she said.

“However, a lot of children have risk factors. Bullying is a risk factor, for example, but it’s a very common experience for children.

“However, only a small fraction of children with those risk factors actually go on to commit acts of gun violence, so predicting these situations is not perfect.”

Instead, she said that one of the key differences in this case was that the suspected gunman had access to a gun.

Prosecutors said Ethan’s parents James and Jennifer Crumbley bought him the gun on Black Friday as an early Christmas present.

The director of Oxford Community Academy, Tim Thorne, said in a letter to parents last week that the Crumbleys had not informed school officials that their son had a right to a gun when they were called. on the morning of the shooting.

“It’s about making sure there’s no access [to guns] Miss Teplin said.

That said, she said that the behaviors Ethan displayed prior to the mass shooting became “specific threats”.

“In this case, it was not a general risk factor such as the child feeling angry. These are very specific things – drawings and how to find ammunition – so it just doesn’t seem appropriate for him to be sent back to the classroom,” she said.

“But if you ask kids if they ever draw violence when they’re angry, you’ll probably get a lot of the answers yes.

“The real issue here is about gun safety and if it weren’t for his parents giving him access to a gun this wouldn’t have happened.”

Oxford High School is home to America’s worst school shooting since 2018

(Beautiful pictures)

In this case, it was a combination of “risk factors” and “accessibility” that it was wrong to blame the school, Ms. Teplin said.

After much criticism, Superintendent Thorne announced last week that the school district is opening a third-party investigation into its handling of the events leading up to the massacre.

It was not immediately clear who was conducting the investigation after the county declined an offer from Michigan District Attorney Dana Nessel to lead her office.

DA Nessel, present at the district, said she was “deeply disappointed” by its decision.

Mr Thorne also provided details on the school’s version of events leading up to the shooting, revealing that Ethan had claimed his cold drawing was for a video game he was designing. .

He also blamed the Crumbleys, who he said “refused” to take their son out of school when school counselors asked to do so that morning.

The decision was then made to allow the teenager to stay in school instead of sending him home to an empty house, he said.

However, questions still surround why officials failed to search the suspect’s backpack or locker.

Prosecutors said the gun was at the school with Ethan that morning and the school had the right to conduct a search because of his disruptive behavior.

Now, as part of the first lawsuit to name a number of school officials, the attorneys are asking for employment records of counselors, teachers and other school staff as well as training materials from school officials. surname.

With the alleged gunman and his parents now behind bars, it remains to be seen whether any school officials will be held accountable and if another precedent will be set. established in the case. Red flags missed and evidence erased: Should Oxford high school officials be blamed for mass shootings?


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