school shootings

Oxford High Survivors File $100 Million Lawsuit Against School District

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The parents of 14-year-old and 17-year-old sisters Bella and Riley Franz, who survived the shooting at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit in late November in which four were killed, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the school district and several of its officials. The suit seeks $100 million in damages, claiming that the teenagers had “a clearly established right to be free from danger” under the 14th Amendment and Michigan state law, a right that was violated on November 30, when Riley was shot in the neck in front of her sister.

The lawsuit states that school administrators failed to act when alleged shooter “Ethan Crumbley posted countdowns and threats of bodily harm” on social media. Though parents raised the matter to school officials, the Franz family alleges that superintendent, Tim Throne, and principal, Steven Wolf, determined that the threats were not credible. It also names Oxford High School’s dean of students, two of its guidance counselors, and two teachers in acting in “reckless disregard” for student safety. According to the Franz family lawyer, they will also file a suit in state court; the attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, also represented survivors of the Columbine shooting in 1999.

A news conference last week held by Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald resulted in serious scrutiny toward those working at the school. According to McDonald, a teacher found Crumbley searching for ammunition on his phone the day before the shooting. On the morning of the attack, a teacher also found a drawing of a shooter, a victim, and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” After the sketch was found, Crumbley’s parents were called to the school for a meeting, where they were instructed to put him in counseling over the next 48 hours, or be reported to Children’s Protective Services. But when they refused to take him home, he was returned to class after he was behaving normally in the guidance counselor’s office, per the school district’s account. His personal items were never searched for a weapon on the day he killed four students and wounded seven others.

While civil litigation is common in the aftermath of American school shootings, prosecutors took the rare step of filing charges against the parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, himself charged with murder and terrorism. Last week, Jennifer and James Crumbley were charged with involuntary manslaughter for allowing their son access to a nine-millimeter handgun when there were warnings that he was potentially violent. On the day before the attack, when Ethan Crumbley texted his mother that he had been seen looking for ammunition on his phone, she replied, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

Oxford High Survivors Sue School District for $100 Million