Attorney: Oxford school staff, administrators betrayed trust by failing to prevent shooting, protect children

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger files two $100M lawsuits against school district, staff in Oxford High School shooting

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger held a press conference Thursday morning to discuss details of the two federal civil lawsuits filed against Oxford Community Schools and several of its staff and administrative members in connection with the Oxford High School shooting.

An attorney representing two sisters present for and injured in the Oxford High School shooting believes that school staff and administrators could have prevented the fatal shooting, but failed to do so.

During an impassioned speech Thursday, attorney Geoffrey Fieger explained his reasoning behind introducing a federal civil lawsuit against the Oxford Community School District and several school employees for their alleged role in the Nov. 30 shooting that left four students dead and seven people hurt.

The attorney, who is representing two high school students, alleges that counselors, teachers and administrators of the school violated the civil rights of the students who were killed, injured and traumatized by the shooting. He argues that school staff had reason to believe the suspected shooter, Ethan Crumbley, 15, posed a threat, and failed to prevent that threat by not taking action, like involving law enforcement, when disturbing evidence was discovered.

Fieger on Thursday filed two $100 million lawsuits on behalf of sisters Riley and Bella Franz, who are students at Oxford High School.

According to Fieger, on Nov. 30, Riley and Bella Franz were in a school bathroom with a friend when the shooting began. As the three exited the bathroom, Crumbley reportedly shot at the group, wounding Riley Franz, who was shot in the neck.

Bella Franz was not struck by gunfire. Fieger says that Riley Franz is extremely lucky to have survived the gunshot wound to the neck, as less than 2% of people reportedly survive such an injury.

While Crumbley is facing 24 charges in connection with the shooting, and his parents James and Jennifer Crumbley are each facing four criminal charges, Fieger argues that school administrators and staff are also responsible for failing to take action that could have prevented the shooting. He says that because district officials and employees likely won’t be facing criminal charges for their alleged role in the shooting, the next best option is to sue.

“We hope by this lawsuit to make the financial cost of allowing children to be slaughtered very high, so as to compel people to do something, if moral responsibility has proved insufficient ... to make them act,” Fieger said Thursday. “When the right to own a gun trumps the right to protect our children and to make them safe, you know, in America, we have misplaced our priorities. We have to love, and protect, our children first and foremost. And so, by this lawsuit, it’s time that we stop talking and start acting.

“The administrators, the counselors, the teachers at Oxford High School bear responsibility,” Fieger added.

An attorney representing two sisters present for and injured in the Oxford High School shooting believes that school staff and administrators could have prevented the fatal shooting, but failed to do so.

You can watch the entire news conference in the video player above.

The lawsuit has been brought against the Oxford Community School District, Superintendent Timothy Throne, Principal Steven Wolf and Dean of Students Ryan Moore. Two unnamed counselors, two unnamed teachers and another staff member have also been listed as defendants. The lawsuits claim that each of the defendants are “responsible through their actions for making the student victims less safe.”

The parents of Riley and Bella Franz, Jeffrey and Brandi Franz, have been listed as plaintiffs as representatives for their daughters, as they are minors.

“Today ... I am going to do something on behalf of the parents and the children that I represent and that were victimized at Oxford High School,” Fieger said Thursday. “We’re going to hold people responsible for betraying the trust we put in them to protect our children.”

You can read the civil lawsuits below.

Shooting details, evidence

Four Oxford High School students were killed on Nov. 30 after a shooter opened fire in the halls during school hours. Six other students and one teacher were also injured in the shooting.

Police say Ethan Crumbley used a 9 mm pistol that was recently purchased by his father to carry out the shooting.

Prior to the shooting, a teacher reportedly observed the teen looking up ammunition on his cell phone during class on Nov. 29. The teacher reported the incident to school officials, who reportedly reached out to Jennifer Crumbley by phone and email to alert the parents.

School personnel say they did not receive a response from either parent regarding the internet search. According to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text to her son regarding the incident, writing “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

On the day of the shooting, Nov. 30, officials report that a teacher discovered a note with disturbing drawings and messages on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, prompting her to take a picture on her cell phone and alert school personnel. Prosecutors say the note contained the following items:

  • A drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
  • A drawing of a bullet with “blood everywhere” written above the bullet.
  • A drawing of a person who appeared to have been shot twice and bleeding.
  • A drawing of a laughing emoji.
  • Writing that said, “My life is useless.”
  • Writing that said, “The world is dead.”

James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to the school for a meeting with officials after the disturbing note was found. Once the meeting ended, Ethan Crumbley’s parents refused to take their son home for the day, according to Prosecutor McDonald. School counselors present during the meeting decided to release Ethan Crumbley back to class, officials said.

Law enforcement believe the weapon was present in the teen’s backpack during the meeting.

More lawsuits could be coming in Oxford High School shooting.

Oxford schools defend decision to send suspected shooter back to class

Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne wrote in a letter last week that the school staff involved in Ethan Crumbley’s case did not have reason to believe that he would harm himself or others when releasing him back to the classroom.

“At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm,” Throne wrote.

“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house. These incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the principal or assistant principal’s office,” Throne added. “While we understand this decision has caused anger, confusion and prompted understandable questioning, the counselors made a judgment based on their professional training and clinical experience and did not have all the facts we now know. Our counselors are deeply committed longstanding school members who have dedicated their lives to supporting students and addressing student mental health and behavioral issues.”

Throne said a third party investigation will be conducted regarding the shooting and the events leading up to it.

Click here to read the entire letter.

More: Prosecutor says evidence suggests Oxford High School shooting ‘probably could have been prevented’

Read the civil lawsuits filed Thursday below.

More: Complete coverage of the Oxford High School shooting

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.