First, a teacher found Ethan Crumbley searching online for ammunition. The next day, there was an alarming note on his desk: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
School officials met with Mr. Crumbley, 15, and his parents, informing them that he needed to begin counseling within 48 hours. After his parents resisted bringing him home, administrators allowed him to stay in school.
Shortly afterward, Mr. Crumbley fatally shot four students, according to the prosecutor in Oakland County, Mich., who laid out that stunning series of events on Friday while announcing involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents.
Now, Oxford High School’s actions are also under a microscope, prompting questions about the school’s responsibility, and whether there could be legal repercussions for administrators. Asked if her office was looking into the conduct of school officials, Karen M. McDonald, the prosecutor, said, “The investigation is ongoing.”
murder and terrorism charges, to leave campus, Professor Ross said.
If the parents refused to take Mr. Crumbley home, it was the legal and ethical responsibility of the school, Professor Ross said, to “remove the student from the classroom and put them in a safe place — safe for other people and safe for themselves.”
School officials have defended their actions. In a videotaped statement posted online on Thursday, the superintendent of Oxford Community Schools, Tim Throne, said that Mr. Crumbley had no disciplinary history. “No discipline was warranted,” Mr. Throne said. “There are no discipline records at the high school.”
But Ms. McDonald suggested there were unanswered questions.
When asked whether the school staff should have reported Mr. Crumbley right away to law enforcement, she said: “Any individual who had the opportunity to stop this tragedy should have done so. The question is what did they know and when did they know it.”
conducted active shooter drills several times per year, “There is a lot of focus on responding to the active shooter, but not necessarily on the prevention for them,” he added.
It is historically very challenging to hold a school district legally responsible for a shooting, said Chuck Vergon, a professor of education law at Youngstown State University.
A majority of past school shooting cases featured some kind of warning in advance of potential violence, he said. But it is difficult in most state courts to meet the required standard of proving gross negligence on the part of school officials — that they acted in “wanton and willful disregard” for the safety or well-being of others, he said. “That standard has usually shielded school officials in most school shooting cases from civil liability.”