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Oxford High School students sue for changes after deadly mass shooting last year

Students hug at a memorial at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Dec. 1, 2021.
Paul Sancya
Students hug at a memorial at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Dec. 1, 2021.

A group of students who attend a Michigan high school where a deadly mass shooting took place late last year are suing the district to force policy changes ahead of the new academic year.

About 20 students have filed a federal lawsuit against the Oxford Community School District and several school officials in a bid for "transparency and a sense of security" as they recover from the shooting and get ready for the upcoming semester.

"Although Plaintiffs survived the shooting, they have suffered irreparable harm," the lawsuit reads.

"Every day since the tragedy that took place on November 30, 2021, students at Oxford High School, including Plaintiffs, have entered through the school doors assuming they will have to defend themselves should another violent attack ensue," the suit adds.

Four students were killed in the shooting – Tate Myre,16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling 17. Six students and a teacher were also injured in the attack.

The 15-year-old accused perpetrator, Ethan Crumbley, as well as his parents have been criminally charged in the attack. Crumbley has been charged with murder and other crimes and he plans to pursue an insanity defense at trial. His parents — James and Jennifer Crumbley — have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, requests a "fully transparent and independent third-party investigation" into what led to the shooting.

The students also want the district to promise "complete transparency" in communicating with Oxford High School students and their parents, secure proper training for administrators and take other protective measures, such as not releasing suicidal students back into the classroom.

Guidance counselors met with Crumbley and his parents the day of the attack but ultimately let him return to class, after which he allegedly carried out the deadly shooting.

The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.

The Oxford Community School District did not immediately return NPR's request for comment.

Alicia Feltz, the parent of one of the students named in the lawsuit, said at a press conference last week that suing the school district was an effort to be heard by education officials.

"Putting our children's names in a federal lawsuit is a desperate attempt," Feltz said, according to the nonprofit news outlet Bridge Michigan.

"With the lack of investigation, there's a lack of transparency. With the lack of transparency, there's a lack of accountability. If there's no accountability, trust cannot be rebuilt," Feltz added.

Others affected by the Oxford High School shooting have also taken legal action, including the family of Riley Franz, a student who was shot in the neck during the attack and said the school district failed to prevent the violence.

The shooting at Oxford High School was one of 34 school shootings in 2021 in which at least one person was killed or injured, according to Education Week. There have been at least 27 school shootings this year, including the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]