A Michigan Circuit Court judge dismissed all lawsuits against the Oxford Community School District related to a 2021 Oxford High shooting, claiming that the district and its staff had state immunity and could not be sued because the shooter had the most direct cause of the attack.
Nearly a dozen lawsuits have been filed by victims and families of victims of the shooting, charging the school district and several school employees with negligence, gross negligence and violation of the Child Safeguarding Act, among other charges.
Multiple lawsuits have alleged that accused school gunman Ethan Crumbley “exhibited behavior indicative of psychiatric distress, suicidal or homicidal tendencies, and the possibility of child abuse and neglect,” but the school failed to act appropriately. The suits argue school officials failed to act appropriately to prevent violence when the teenage gunman displayed multiple warning signs leading up to the shooting.
15-year-old Crumbley, a student at the school, is believed to have shot dead four of his classmates and injured seven others in November 2021. Crumbley was charged with 24 counts.
Crumbley pleaded guilty to all charges against him last October. He also admitted that his parents bought him the gun used in the shooting with his own money and that it was kept in an unlocked safe.
The school district has maintained that civil lawsuits filed against it alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment are barred because the district enjoys state immunities. State immunity protects government agencies from legal liability when the agency is “involved in the exercise or performance of a government function,” according to court records.
In her ruling, Oakland County District Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said the conduct of the school district and its employees named in the lawsuit was not the “proximate cause” of the victims’ injuries.
The lawsuit alleges that several school employees failed to adequately respond to Ethan Crumbley’s behavior in the day and a half before the shooting, according to court documents.
Brennan ruled that Crumbley’s act of firing the gun was the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage,” not the actions of the county and school officials, arguing that their conduct did no immediate harm to the plaintiffs.
Ethan Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, are also facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter after they allegedly failed to recognize warning signs about their son in the months leading up to the shooting. You have pleaded not guilty.
Attorney Ven Johnson, representing the families of the students killed in the shooting, criticized the verdict and the law behind it, saying his clients felt harassed again.
“On behalf of our clients in Oxford, we are deeply saddened and disappointed by Judge Brennan’s dismissal of all the Oxford Community Schools defendants today. We maintain that state immunity is wrong and unconstitutional and the law should be changed immediately,” Johnson told ABC News in a statement.
He added: “By the law, everyone should be treated equally. Nobody should have more rights than others just because they work for the government. If this shooting happened at a private school, this case would go to trial and none of these defenses would exist.”
Johnson also called on Michigan lawmakers to change the state’s immunity law. He said he plans to appeal the judge’s decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
In a statement to district families released to ABC News, the school board said, “We recognize that the decision will affect each of our families in the school community differently. Oxford is still mourning. Oxford is still healing. As we continue this journey, Oxford Community Schools remain committed to providing our students with a quality education, a preferred workplace for our staff, recovery support for our community and a safe and healthy learning environment for all lives that we are privileged to be a part of.”