Oxford school shooting: Parents speak out at board meeting for first time since tragedy
Many parents spoke about a lack of trust between school administrators and families
DETROIT – Parents in Oxford, Michigan, spoke out Tuesday at the first school board meeting since a Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School left four students dead and seven others, including a teacher, injured.
Many parents – some seemingly emotional and others even-keeled – spoke about a lack of trust between school administrators and families.
"The first failure on the school is trust. We don't trust you anymore," the first parent to speak told school board members during the meeting recorded by WDIV, a local NBC affiliate. "Because now we've had catastrophic failures [on] your watch."
"Why didn't you call the police when you knew there was a kid with a problem?" he asked, receiving applause from the audience. "…I think you all need to resign tonight."
Another parent said parents were initially left in the dark when authorities began showing up at the school on Nov. 30.
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"Are we talking about guns again or is this, like, a bomb threat, or what?" she said. "…In order for us, as parents, to be able to feel comfortable and trust the administration again, we need full transparency about everything, and I'm not talking about names, but I am talking about, you know, did these threats come from within our district? Did they come from outside?"
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She added that parents "all want to trust the school district" to bring children back to school after the shooting, but they "want to be comfortable sending them there."
Another parent said his 8-year-old daughter asked him if she "was going to die" at school if he sent her back.
"To tell you my heart broke is an understatement. I am absolutely devastated," the father said. "…My home right now is not well. My children are not well. I can tell you we love Oxford. … We love this community. I love how strong this community is. But I've seen more than just loss of life. … This tragedy has shown be the loss of trust. The loss of safety and security in this small town."
Other parents took issue with discrepancies in emergency training, the school district's failure to identify Ethan Crumbley's threat to Oxford High and a lack of strong relationships between students and school staff.
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School leaders have received some criticism for their handling of Crumbley, 15, who met with his parents and school officials in the counselor's office the morning before he shot multiple people to discuss disturbing drawings he had made in class, according to Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald.
"On the morning of Nov. 30, a teacher observed concerning drawings and written statements that have been detailed in media reports, which the teacher reported to school counselors and the Dean of students," Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Thorne wrote in a letter sent to the Oxford High School community. "The student was immediately removed from the classroom and brought to the guidance counselor’s office where he claimed the drawing was part of a video game he was designing and informed counselors that he planned to pursue video game design as a career."
"At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm," Throne added. "In addition, despite media reports, whether or not the gun was in his backpack has not been confirmed by law enforcement to our knowledge nor by our investigation at this time."
A third party will investigate the school’s handling of Crumbley ahead of the shooting. The school district denied the district attorney's request to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
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School leaders are also named in attorney Geoffrey Fieger's $100 million lawsuit on behalf of two parents whose 14 and 17-year-old daughters were victimized in the tragedy.
Thorne, one of the defendants named in Fieger's complaint who announced on Tuesday that he would be delaying his retirement scheduled for January, said the school district is currently focused on letting families heal after the Nov. 30 tragedy and coming up with a plan to reopen Oxford public schools.