A prosecutor continues to criticize the decision to keep a teenager at a Michigan school before a shooting that killed four students last week, raising questions about whether staff and the school district will be held responsible – criminal or civil – in the tragedy.
âWe should all be watching the events leading up to this horrific event,â said Karen McDonald. “And as a community, as a school, as a nation, talk about what we could have done differently to make sure that didn’t happen. And in this case, a lot could have been done differently.”
Ethan Crumbley, 15, is accused of shooting comrades at Oxford high school after meeting with counselors and his parents. A teacher was disturbed by a drawing of a gun, a bullet and a person who appeared to have been shot, as well as messages saying “My life is useless” and “The world is dead,” investigators said.
A look at some of the issues:
Could school staff face charges?
The prosecutor refined his remarks on the school. Two days after the November 30 shooting, she said she saw no “criminal guilt” on the part of the staff and was reluctant to blame anyone except Crumbley and his parents.
But his tone was different on Monday.
“It is an investigative process that I will leave to the police. I can tell you there is outrage in the community, âsaid McDonald, wondering why Crumbley’s parents were allowed to make the ultimate decision to keep him in school that day.
Oxford Superintendent Tim Throne said advisers met the boy and his parents on the day of the shooting. They concluded that he was not a risk to himself or to others, according to Throne, but told James and Jennifer Crumbley to ask him for outside help within 48 hours or else they would call. those responsible for child protection.
The Crumbleys “categorically refused” to bring their son home, said Throne, who is planning a separate investigation into what happened that day.
âI see a lot of negligence, but I’m not planning charges against anyone in the school,â said David Steingold, a Detroit-area defense attorney. âYou would have to show a specific intention. None of the staff had any intention of committing a crime. “
Meanwhile, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it was continuing to investigate Detroit artist Andrzej Sikora, who was interviewed on Monday. Ethan Crumbley’s parents were arrested last weekend at his Detroit mall. They were charged with manslaughter under a theory that their actions contributed to the school shooting.
Investigators were examining Sikora’s electronic devices. Her attorney, Clarence Dass, said the artist was unaware the couple were in their studio.
As for the others, the gun was legally sold by a local dealer to James Crumbley, investigators said. The gun manufacturing industry is protected from civil lawsuits for its products, according to the Giffords Law Center, which tracks gun issues.
What is the role of an advisor?
Faced with the drawing and writings found at Oxford, a counselor would be concerned about thoughts of suicide, not signs of a possible mass homicide, said Carolyn Stone of the University of North Florida, an expert on ethical issues and legal for school counselors.
âWhen you see that, you call the parents, and that’s what this counselor did,â Stone said. âWhen we share, then the parents have custody and control of the child and get them help. Our job is to make sure parents know their child is in trouble. “
Crumbley’s parents never spoke to advisers about purchasing a gun days earlier, the superintendent said.
“The counselors passed judgment on their professional training and clinical experience and didn’t have all the facts we know now,” Throne said, referring to keeping Crumbley in school instead of sending him home. in an empty house.
Could the school face civil lawsuits?
The shooting killed four students and injured six other students and one staff member. The students barricaded themselves in the classrooms and even fled through a window on the first floor. The prosecutor said the whole school was “terrified”.
Personal injury lawyers have expressed doubts that the District of Oxford can be successfully prosecuted for letting Crumbley stay in school. This is because Michigan law sets the bar high to wrest liability from public schools and other branches of government.
“You have to show that the administration or the faculty members were grossly negligent, which means that they did not take into account that an injury was likely to occur,” said lawyer A. Vince Colella.
Even though gross negligence can be shown, someone suing must also show that it is an immediate cause of death or injury, he said.
âBecause the staff did not pull the trigger, they cannot be held accountable due to government immunity. â¦ They knew he was distraught. Immunity is counterintuitive to public safety, âColella said.