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Oxford group unhappy with district's reaction to mass shooting

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Oxford Community Group
Oxford High parent Laurie Bourgeau speaks at a Thursday press conference. Members of the Oxford Community Group are calling for an independent investigation into the Nov. 30 mass shooting there, and for new and improved safety plans in the district.

Some parents and community members say Oxford High School isn’t doing enough to ensure student safety, in the wake of a November mass shooting that killed four students.

During a Thursday press conference, the Oxford Community Group said they’re disappointed that the district and school board haven’t taken certain steps to improve security at the school. Among other things, they’re calling for an independent investigation into the shooting, whether the school followed its own safety procedures, and what might need to change.

Oxford parent Laurie Bourgeau said the group initially got started by asking the school board when it planned to hire a third-party investigator to look into the shooting itself, and how the school’s own safety and security procedures were or weren’t followed in the run-up to it.

In December, they [the school board] stated it would be done as quickly as possible,” Bourgeau said. “In February they shifted, stating they can't do the investigation as soon as they thought because a prosecutor would not allow them to do it, as a rule, for justice in the criminal trials.” Accused shooter Ethan Crumbley is charged with murder and terrorism, while his parents are standing trial for involuntary manslaughter.

“Shortly after,” Bourgeau continued, “the prosecutor issued a statement explaining they advised the school's attorney that their office is not asking anyone to delay those efforts. Then the school board shifted again, and now they're saying they will not do an investigation until all the trials are completed. They even let us know the reason during a school board meeting, which is because they feel it will bankrupt the school district.”

As for why that’s the case, Bourgeau said “We feel the answer is clear. The school board knows an investigation will show the mistakes the administration and board made leading up to November 30, and rather than identifying the security, breakdowns and policy holes that need to be corrected to ensure our students, our teachers and staff are safe, they're protecting themselves. In other words, Oxford's Board of Education is more concerned with protecting themselves than protecting our children.”

Bourgeau and other members of the Oxford Community Group called for that to change, and for the school board to immediately hire an independent third party to do that investigation. The district rejected Michigan Attorney General’s Dana Nessel’s offer to do such an investigation.

The group also wants the school board and district to immediately start a “public and transparent” effort to review its school safety plans, and implement a new plan in time for the upcoming school year.

The group also called on the district to listen to student voices, saying they’ve been overlooked in the aftermath of the shooting. They described students no longer feel safe at school, and have limited resources to cope with that.

Oxford 11th grader Griffen Jones said that besides the addition of some counselors and therapy dogs, and mandating clear backpacks for students, he feels like “they’ve added almost nothing” since students returned to school after the shooting.

“I hate waking up certain days because of the anxiety and stress, and lack of safety and thought,” Jones said. “The thought gets to me sometimes in class, and I can’t focus. I don’t care about school half the time, because most of the time I’m concerned for my safety.”

I feel like I'm alone in my own school. All I can tell myself every morning is I hope nothing happens.”

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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