Parents of two students who attended the Michigan school where a student allegedly killed four students and wounded several others have filed the first federal lawsuit against the school under a 14th Amendment claim.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of Riley Franz, 17, a senior, and his sister Bella Franz, 14, a freshman. Riley was shot in the neck while next to Bella.
“The horror of November 30, 2021 was entirely preventable,” Fieger said in a statement. “At Oxford High School, they'll search your backpack if they think you're vaping, but they refused to suspend or search a student who wrote what we now know was reams of homicidal notes and drawings, scenes of classroom slaughter and mania.”
Fieger is right. The more information that becomes available about the shooting that occurred just two weeks ago, the more it looks like this one could have been stopped.
Ryan Petty, father of Alaina Petty, the 14-year-old who was one of 17 people killed in 2018 during the Parkland shootings, has become an ambassador for school safety and a fierce advocate for encouraging school administrations and parents to heed behavioral health warning signs before it’s too late.
“Many of the experts discussing the warning signs and troubling interactions between the attacker, his family, and officials at Oxford High School immediately before the tragedy are missing a key point,” Ryan Petty said in a statement exclusively to the Washington Examiner. “While these experts make some valid observations when discussing warning signs, what is truly unfortunate is that there is no mention of threat assessment. They discuss psych assessments, counselor clinical assessment, [and] discussions amongst school administrators, [but] none of this is consistent with conducting a threat assessment. It is my view that a properly conducted behavioral threat assessment, with law enforcement, would have yielded a different outcome.”
A Dec. 5 headline in the Washington Post reads, “After Michigan school shooting, experts wonder what could have prevented it.” The story says, “Any individual who had the opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so.” Still, even by that date, it was clear school administrators and staff knew about the shooter’s dangerous state of mind and access to a firearm. A proper behavioral threat assessment was not done in this case.
There were multiple red flags presented to the school and the boy’s parents. Before the shooting happened, at least some of the school staff knew the alleged perpetrator, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, had been looking online during school for ammunition. One teacher had seen and reported to school administration about a disturbing picture she had seen Crumbley draw of a gun, a bullet, and a person bleeding accompanied by the words, “Thoughts won’t stop, help me,” and “The world is dead.”
The boys’ parents were called to the school based on this information. However, because he appeared calm, according to a letter released by the school superintendent, and because his parents refused to take him home following that meeting, counselors did the next worst thing: failed to recognize the gravity of these signs and sent the boy back to class. The parents realized too late the father’s recently purchased handgun was missing and, hours later, Crumbley allegedly killed Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Tate Myre, 16. He is also accused of shooting Justin Shilling, 17, who died the next day.
“Tragically for the victims,” Petty said, “we'll never know if a threat assessment would have changed the events of that day.”
Nicole Russell (@russell_nm) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota.