The parents of two sisters who survived the November 30 shooting at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit submitted two Trials in federal court Thursday against the school district and its officials, including the superintendent, principal, dean of students, two counselors and two teachers.
The plaintiffs are Jeffrey and Brandi Franz, parents of Riley, a 17-year-old senior, and Bella, a 14-year-old freshman. Riley was shot in the neck in front of her sister.
The lawsuit, which seeks $ 100 million in damages, claims constitutional violations under the 14th Amendment and violations under Michigan state law, because teens “had a clearly established right to be free from harm.” And, the lawsuit says, school staff members acted with “reckless disregard” for the safety of the victims.
The shooting killed four students and seriously injured several more. Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged with murder and terrorism. His parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, have been charged with manslaughter because, according to the prosecutor, they should have known that their son was a danger to their school. They all pleaded not guilty.
The actions of the school district, the Oxford Community Schools, have also come under a microscope. At a news conference last week, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald described a chilling sequence of events that led to the shooting.
The day before the shooting, a teacher found Mr. Crumbley searching his phone for ammunition. The school knew, McDonald said, that he had recently visited a shooting range with his mother. And on the morning of the shooting, a teacher discovered an alarming drawing of Mr. Crumbley that included a gun, a person who had been shot, and the words: “Thoughts don’t stop. Help me.”
Mr. Crumbley’s parents were called to an immediate meeting at the school with their son. They were told to put him in therapy within 48 hours or they would risk being reported to Child Protective Services. They refused to take him home when asked to do so, according to the prosecutor.
The school district has said that school officials decided to return Mr. Crumbley to class after that meeting, after observing him behaving normally in the guidance office. Crumbley’s belongings were not searched for a weapon, and later that day, he began shooting after emerging from a bathroom, according to authorities.
The lawsuit filed Thursday by the parents’ attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, contains several allegations about Mr. Crumbley’s behavior before the attack. He states that the night before the shooting, Mr. Crumbley posted on Twitter: “Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow at Oxford. “
The complaint says that on social media, “Ethan Crumbley posted countdowns and threats of bodily harm” and that parents complained to administrators about those social media posts in the weeks leading up to the shooting, but that Superintendent Tim Throne, and the director, Steven Wolf, said the threats were not credible.
The lawsuit also states that school officials did not involve the campus security officer in meeting with Mr. Crumbley and his parents on the day of the shooting. Says the principal and dean of students were in the meeting with Mr. Crumbley. Mr. Fieger did not immediately respond to a question about the source of this information.
Often years of civil litigation follow school shootings. But administrators, teachers and counselors rarely have to fear criminal charges, according to legal experts, even when there was some kind of advance warning of possible violence.