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Tensions Over School Safety Rise As Oxford High School Shooter and His Parents Are Charged

A student shot and killed four other students, injuring six more and one teacher at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, on Nov. 30. The shooter, Ethan Crumbley, was arrested on site. In the aftermath of the shooting, Ethan Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and parents of one of the injured students have filed two $100 million lawsuits against the school district and school employees respectively, claiming the shooting could’ve been prevented, according to a Dec. 9 press conference.

The incident occurred at 12:51 p.m. when Ethan Crumbley went into a bathroom and came out a few minutes later, gun in hand. In the arraignment the prosecution describes him “methodically” and “deliberately” shooting at students in the hallway and in classrooms. Law enforcement left for the school at 12:52 p.m. after over 100 calls and arrested the shooter within two to three minutes, according to Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard in a press conference held that evening. An investigation was launched on Dec. 1 and subsequently Ethan Crumbley was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder, terrorism, and seven counts of assault with intent to commit murder. In a secondary press conference held on Dec. 4, Bouchard states that Ethan Crumbley’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were arrested later on charges of involuntary manslaughter on Dec. 4 after hiding from law enforcement in a local artist’s warehouse. 

On Nov. 30, the morning before the shooting, a teacher removed Ethan Crumbley from class following the discovery of a violent drawing. According to Lieutenant Tim Willis of the Oakland County Sheriff Office, it depicted a gun and a person being shot with the words, “The thoughts won’t stop, please help me, blood everywhere, my life is useless, the world is dead,” at the top. School officials met with James and Jennifer Crumbley and instructed them to provide their son with counseling within the next 48 hours. They “flatly refused” the idea of removing him from school, attests a statement released by Tim Throne, the school superintendent, so Ethan Crumbley was allowed back into class. 

The investigation is ongoing, but a hearing for the potential dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Jeffrey and Brandi Franz, parents of one of the injured students, is scheduled for Jan. 20. They are suing the school district and school employees, claiming the shooting was “entirely preventable.” The timeline of their lawsuit claims “multiple concerned parents provided communications” to school officials after Ethan Crumbley posted threats to students on social media. The $100 million amount they’re suing for is because they, “… hope by this lawsuit to make the financial cost of allowing children to be slaughtered very high,” according to their lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger, in a press conference on Dec. 9.

Freya Matthiessen, a freshman at Franklin High School, agrees with them, saying “the shooting in Michigan was absolutely preventable.” In general she feels, “the most of it is always the school’s fault,” because “schools fail to teach the community of the school very crucial things to look out for and how to act in the case of the shooting.”

Superintendent Throne’s statement opposes Matthiessen’s idea, asserting that “staff and students’ response to the shooter was efficient, exemplary and definitely prevented further deaths and injuries.”

“All of us… are very much impacted by just how it affects us here at school,” says Vice Principal Scott Burns, who is in charge of drills and the Behavioral Safety Assessment Team (previously called the Student Threat Assessment Team) at Franklin.

 Matthiessen agrees: “… it makes me very on edge, when you hear a loud noise in the hallway. Anytime I go into a new classroom I always think, ‘how would I escape if there was a shooting.’”

 Burns is also worried about “how people respond to potentially threatening situations. For example, last week, when it was about one school’s lockdown…” He is referring to an incident on Dec. 8 where multiple schools in North Portland were locked down because of an armed robbery committed by a student of an unreleased school. Rumors began circulating online about a student from Roosevelt High School contacting their friend at Franklin saying, “They’re gonna go to Franklin next.” 

Principal Chris Frazier emailed students and families that day to inform them that PPS Leadership and PPS Security Services had found no immediate threat to the school, and during 8th period an announcement was broadcast that restated the same information. However, by that time numerous students had left school due to the social media messages and suggested their friends do the same.

The social media aspect makes Franklin High School counselor Holly Vaughn-Edmonds very nervous and she asks students for their help in monitoring it because “it’s really hard for adults to notice that.” She also says, “if I were to have a wish, it would be that there would be more monitoring of social media…”

 However, Vaughn-Edmonds feels confident in the support that Franklin provides, stating, “… within Franklin and I believe in our district, we have incredibly trained, knowledgeable, caring, and committed staff that puts students at the center.” She worries more about mental health than physical safety, and the counseling team is working to provide as many resources to students as they can, whether virtual or in person. 

Vaughn-Edmonds is specifically worried about the mental toll of the Oxford High School shooting, but is optimistic about the support system for students at Franklin that starts with her, and includes therapists and behavioral specialists. “Can we know that we will never experience someone in our community that might be yielding a gun? No, we can’t know that, but what we can know is that we’re going to take care of people and kids in this space and do everything we can to give you the tools to be able to cope with a dangerous situation,” she says.

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