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Stateside Podcast: Report says Oxford shooting was "avoidable"

Organizers say nearly six hundred people showed up to the March for Our Lives demonstration in Oxford on June 11, 2022. There were an estimated 300 protests across the country including ones in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Traverse City, and Port Huron.
April Van Buren
Michigan Radio
A March for Our Lives demonstration in Oxford on June 11, 2022. For nearly two years, families and community members have been waiting for more information about what went wrong in the lead-up to a deadly mass shooting at Oxford High School in November of 2021.

This week, a 572-page report was released by Guidepost Solutions about the November 2021 shooting at Oxford High School. Nearly two years after the school district’s board voted to authorize an independent investigation, the report provides some long-awaited answers to Oxford families and other community members.

The main takeaway was that this tragedy was “avoidable.” The report found that Oxford Community Schools failed to create specific threat assessment guidelines, which outline signs that a student might pose a harm to themselves or others. In addition, the district had not conducted a formal threat assessment training at the school since 2018 at the time of the shooting.

We spoke with Beenish Ahmed, Michigan Radio’s criminal justice reporter, about the details of the report.

“It took months of pressure from Oxford families demanding answers for the school board to commission this report from Guidepost Solutions,” Ahmed said. “Even then, there were challenges that independent investigators faced to get the information they needed to write this report.”

We also spoke with Emily Busch, whose son was at Oxford the day of the shooting. While Busch was aware that some members of the district administration declined to be interviewed in the investigation of the shooting, she said one of the most shocking parts of the report was seeing that lack of cooperation confirmed in print.

“It's stated very clearly in the report that there was a failure in leadership from the president of the school board all the way down to the superintendent, through the superintendent's cabinet,” Busch said. “So when you look at what I consider a massive failure in leadership, I think you can translate that to an overall lack of attention to this issue: children in crisis, people in crisis, and a failure in leadership across the board.”

While there were concerns about bias, given that the report was commissioned by the school district itself, Busch said she found the report to be “as unbiased as possible.”

“I think they did an incredibly thorough job in explaining and detailing their pathway to the truth and how it was reported. I hope that the community as a whole takes away from this and from the report, as we continue to digest the report, that they [Guidepost] really tried to turn over every rock,” Busch said.

While it’s not clear what changes the report might lead to in Oxford school, Busch said she hopes that this report will be used as an example for other districts across the state and country to help them better understand how to safeguard the children in their care.

As the community continues to process the report, Guidepost held several public meetings on Thursday to offer community members the chance to ask questions and talk to the investigators behind the report.

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April Van Buren is a producer for Stateside. She produces interviews for air as well as web and social media content for the show.
Olivia Mouradian recently graduated from the University of Michigan and joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2023.