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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Family of teen killed in Oxford shooting files federal lawsuit against district officials, teachers

Justin Shilling
Justin Shilling

A federal lawsuit alleges that Oxford High School administrators, counselors and teachers ignored state child protection laws in the run-up to last November’s deadly shooting.

The lawsuit, brought by family members of those killed in the attack, alleges school employees failed to report suspected abuse. The accused shooter — and his parents — met with school officials the morning of the attack, but the parents refused to take the teen home, officials have said, unaware the high school sophomore had already brought a gun to school.

Attorney Ven Johnson, who is handling the case for the families involved, said Michigan state law shields school administrators and teachers from directly being named in a lawsuit, but they are offered no such protections in federal court.

Jill Soave is the mother of Justin Shilling, who was killed in the shooting along with three other students. She said that the search for answers honors her son.

Jill Soave is the mother of Justin Shilling, who was killed in the shooting along with three other students. She said that the search for answers honors her son.

“For me it’s helpful, and I need to know it,” Soave said. “I don’t know how his soul can rest if the truth isn’t out.”

The accused shooter is facing four counts of murder and several other charges. The teen’s parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly ignoring indications that the teen was unstable and purchasing the gun used in the attack.

Craig Shilling said he has concerns about how the school treated the alleged shooter in the lead-up to the shooting.

“We deserve to know what the hell went wrong for something like this to happen, because identifying the problem is the first step to finding a solution and a proper solution can help prevent something like this from ever happening again,” Shilling said.

Johnson said in the federal lawsuit school officials are not immune from litigation.

“Governmental immunity is unfair,” Johnson said. “It gives an unfair advantage to the government. It makes special rules for the government that the ordinary citizens don’t have and it should be abolished.”

Johnson also called on the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department to release further evidence and the findings of their investigation.

Last week, the Oxford School district backtracked and hired a firm to handle an independent investigation into the shooting, days after saying they would wait until after all civil and criminal trials were finished.

The district turned down the Michigan Attorney General’s offer to conduct a probe.

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