Stateside Podcast: Oxford community wants answers
For over a year now, community members in Oxford have been pushing for an external review to analyze how exactly a mass shooting happened at their high school. In November 2021, four students were shot to death and seven other people were injured by a student gunman.
In other school districts where mass school shootings have happened – places like in Newtown and Parkland – external reports were approved and received within the year.
A report on threat assessment at Oxford schools was released earlier this month. However, the review does not cover the period leading up to the shooting. Propublica Midwest reporter Anna Clark, who recently wrote about this issue, spoke with community members who have questions about the circumstances leading up to the shooting.
“Was a threat assessment protocol followed? Could the shooting have been prevented? How does this compare to the school's practices now … where they're sending their kids again?” Clark said, listing some of the questions parents are asking.
Why there’s no review
Clark said that while the school district initially seemed interested in an external review, there has since been pushback from the district’s legal representation.
“Scarcely three hours after the shooting stopped on November 30, 2021, two top officials at the school district got an email from a claim manager at their insurance company that connected them to a lawyer named Timothy Mullins and said that he'll be able to provide you with any legal assistance you may need,” Clark said. “This lawyer has gone on to play a pretty significant role.”
And while schools prepare for the scenario of an active shooter, there isn’t a clear playbook on what to do in the aftermath of a school shooting. While some schools choose to hold external reviews, Clark said they are not mandatory.
“The third-party reviews of independent investigations of school shootings are not standard,” Clark said. “They're not even particularly common. When they do happen, it tends to be in the most high-profile instances.”
A path to heal
Clark said that community members in Oxford “just like straightforward answers and an acknowledgment from their school district about what happened.”
They also want accountability, and a chance to heal.
“I think people are acutely aware that the longer this goes without having a sort of a comprehensive story told beyond just what might be found in a criminal lawsuit or a civil lawsuit, but a full story about what happened – it’s difficult, they've been saying, for them to heal,” Clark said.
You can listen to our full conversation with Anna Clark and learn more about the external review issue at Oxford on the podcast.
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