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Lawsuit: Oxford High School shooting was "predictable and preventable"

School Shooting Oxford, Michigan
Jake May/AP
The Flint Journal
A bouquet of roses sits on a sign outside of Oxford High School on the day after the school shooting in Oxford, Mich. Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at the school, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

The November shooting at Oxford High School that killed four students was “both predictable and preventable,” according to a lawsuit filed by one victim’s mother this week.

Oxford Community Schools already faces multiple lawsuits for allegedly mishandling the situation that led up to the accused shooter’s rampage. The latest comes from the mother of one victim, senior Madisyn Baldwin.

It says school officials showed gross negligence when they sent the alleged shooter back to class after a series of disturbing behaviors, including an incident the morning of the shooting.

He was taken to the school counselor and his parents were called in after a teacher found a drawing on his math assignment that that the lawsuit described as a “picture of [his] handgun with gunshot wounds to the torso and blood coming from the victim’s mouth. A bullet was drawn under the words, “Blood everywhere.” A crying face emoji was on the paper with the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me” and “My life is useless.”

The accused shooter's parents were called to the school and ordered to seek mental health treatment for their son. However, they refused to remove him from school at that point, and he was sent back to class. The shootings occurred about two hours later. Their son now faces murder and terrorism charges, while his parents are charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The federal lawsuit names former Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Timothy Throne and Oxford High School Principal Steven Wolf, Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak, and counselor Shawn Hopkins as defendants. It says those officials made the decision to return Ethan Crumbley "to the school population, despite his obvious suicidal and homicidal ideations and access to weapons.” They're accused of gross negligence, wrongful death, and violating victims' civil rights.

Crumbley "was homicidal and ... posed a significant and substantial threat to foreseeable victims; namely, students within the confined school building,” the lawsuit says. It goes on to say that the school appeared to violate its own safety protocols by not searching Crumbley's backpack, where investigators believe he hid his gun, and not notifying the school’s liaison police officer.

Oxford Community Schools is now facing a number of lawsuits from victim’s families and others, all claiming the shooting was foreseeable and accusing the district of negligence. Some parents and students are angry with how the district has handled events both leading and up to and after the shooting, including its refusal thus far to submit to an independent investigation.

Oxford school officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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