Oxford High School students, parents sue school staff, Crumbley family in wake of mass shooting

Parents of shooting victim Tate Myre included in new civil lawsuit

Oxford High School shooting victim Tate Myre (center) is pictured with his family. The parents of Tate Myre, alongside other Oxford students and their parents, are suing school staff and administrators, as well as the suspected shooter and his parents, in connection with the Nov. 30 mass shooting. Photo provided by Ven Johnson Law. (Myre Family)

A new civil lawsuit has been filed by and on behalf of Oxford High School students and their families in the wake of the fatal mass shooting in November that left four dead and seven injured.

The parents of Tate Myre -- a 16-year-old who was killed in the Oxford High School shooting -- and several students who were present for and survived the shooting are suing school staff and administrators, as well as the suspected shooter and his parents, for their alleged roles in the tragedy. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Oakland County, the defendants are being accused of negligence for failing to prevent the mass shooting after events transpired that suggested the suspected shooter would soon initiate violence, either toward himself or others.

The lawsuit was brought forth by William and Sherri Myre, parents of Tate Myre; Chad and Meghan Gregory, parents of Keegan Gregory, a student who survived the shooting; and Lauren Aliano, mother of Sophia and Grace Kempen, two students who also survived the shooting. The plaintiffs are suing three unnamed teachers, OHS counselor Pam Fine, counselor Shawn Hopkins and OHS dean of students Nicholas Ejack, in addition to suspected shooter Ethan Crumbley and his parents James and Jennifer Crumbley.

The Crumbleys are all currently facing criminal charges in connection with the mass shooting and are imprisoned in Oakland County pending trial.

The lawsuit filed Thursday, the first to be filed in Oakland County where the shooting occurred, is the first to publicly name OHS staff members who were reportedly involved in events related to Ethan Crumbley prior to the mass shooting. The teachers, counselors and dean of students are accused of failing to contact authorities or Child Protective Services after witnessing disturbing behavior from the accused shooter.

While much of the details surrounding the shooting have been made public during the criminal cases against the Crumbleys, the lawsuit filed Thursday provides some new evidence and assigns staff to certain roles in events leading up to the shooting.

Leading up to the shooting

According to the lawsuit, and in tandem with evidence uncovered by prosecutors in the criminal investigation of the shooting, a teacher had witnessed Ethan Crumbley conduct a web search for ammunition for a gun while in class on Nov. 29, 2021. The ammunition was reportedly for a weapon recently purchased by Ethan Crumbley’s father.

The teacher reportedly took a photo of the web search, and then reported the incident to counselor Fine, who met with Ethan Crumbley and attempted to reach his mother by telephone to discuss the incident. Officials say Jennifer Crumbley never responded to Fine’s messages.

The lawsuit alleges that other students at Oxford High School saw Ethan Crumbley with shell casings and live ammunition rounds at the school that same day.

On the day of the shooting, Nov. 30, a second teacher discovered disturbing drawings and messages on Ethan Crumbley’s assignment while in math class. As made public prior, the drawings were of a handgun, a person injured in a shooting and more, and included statements that read “blood everywhere,” “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”

View: The drawings a teacher found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk just hours before Oxford High School shooting

The teacher reportedly took a photo of the drawings and reported the incident to counselor Hopkins. The teacher is said to have taken Ethan Crumbley to Hopkins’ office at some point, but left the student’s backpack in the classroom.

According to the lawsuit, the backpack contained a 9 mm handgun, which was used in the shooting, and 48 rounds of live ammunition. Prosecutors previously said they suspected that the weapon used in the shooting was stored in the student’s backpack.

Hopkins met with Ethan Crumbley and called his parents into the school for an emergency meeting regarding the sophomore student’s behavior. During the meeting, the counselor told James and Jennifer Crumbley that they had 48 hours to get their son into counseling, or else he would call Child Protective Services.

The Crumbley parents were asked to take their son home with them that day to get him counseling, but they reportedly said no, citing work obligations.

A third teacher is said to have witnessed Ethan Crumbley looking up “violent videos that depicted a shooting.” This teacher reported the incident to Hopkins, the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit alleges that parents’ knowledge of Ethan Crumbley’s disturbing behavior and response to it was enough to signify parental abuse or neglect, and should have prompted school staff to call CPS, anyway. The plaintiffs also argue that the school staff who witnessed and reported Ethan Crumbley’s disturbing behavior had reason to suspect child abuse or neglect, which would legally require them to contact Child Protective Services or law enforcement.

Ethan Crumbley’s backpack was retrieved from the classroom and returned to the student in Hopkins’ office, the lawsuit claims. The teachers and counselors are being accused of failing to inspect the backpack for weapons, despite what they had witnessed on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30. Plaintiffs argue that if school staff did not think they had a right to search the backpack, that they should have still kept it from the student while law enforcement stepped in to search it for them.

Ethan Crumbley was then sent back to class with his backpack. He is said to then have entered a bathroom, loaded the handgun and initiated the mass school shooting.

Perspective of students suing

The civil lawsuit is offering more details into what some students experienced on Nov. 30.

Keegan Gregory, whose parents are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was present at Oxford High School during the shooting.

According to the complaint, Keegan Gregory was hiding in a bathroom stall with another student, 17-year-old Justin Shilling, when Ethan Crumbley entered the bathroom. The suspected shooter reportedly located the two students, and shot Shilling in the head.

Shilling was the fourth student to die in the mass shooting.

Ethan Crumbley then reportedly demanded that Keegan Gregory exit the stall. Keegan Gregory was able to flee from the bathroom stall and out of the bathroom to safety, the lawsuit reads. The student was reportedly texting his parents what was happening while he was hiding in the bathroom.

After seeing Shilling be shot to death and “nearly being murdered himself, (Keegan Gregory) has suffered severe anxiety and emotional distress and is now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” the lawsuit reads.

Students Sophia and Grace Kempen also survived the school shooting. The minor students are represented by their mother, Aliano, in the lawsuit.

The sisters were reportedly hiding in their classrooms with other classmates while the shooting occurred. It does not appear that they were physically wounded in the shooting.

Still, after “knowing that they had been close to death and that several of their classmates had been killed or injured,” the sisters have “suffered severe emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, nightmares, fear of attending school, inability to enjoy movies and games that reprise the shooting incident at Oxford and fear of any loud, sudden noises such as fireworks,” the lawsuit reads, in part.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages, in part, for the students’ experiences and medical treatment that they may require following the shooting.

Arguments against the Crumbleys

The plaintiffs of the civil lawsuit are alleging claims of wrongful death, negligence and assault against James, Jennifer and Ethan Crumbley.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of the accused shooter, are being accused of neglecting their son, who showed “concerning, strange and bizarre behavior which should have alerted his parents, as well as other people who had extensive contact with him, that he was suffering from significant psychiatric problems, and that he might have been subject to child abuse and/or neglect by his parents,” the lawsuit reads.

James Crumbley (left), Ethan Crumbley (center) and Jennifer Crumbley (right) are all being lodged at the Oakland County Jail over charges in connection with the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School. Mug shots provided by law enforcement. (WDIV)

According to the complaint, Ethan Crumbley exhibited disturbing behavior over the course of the 2020-2021 school year, when he was a freshman.

The teen is said to have recorded himself torturing and killing animals on his cell phone, in addition to videos of himself discussing plans to shoot up the school. He is also said to have searched “school shootings” and firearms on his cell phone on several occasions -- often enough to prompt notifications and advertisements for mental health and the purchase or use of firearms, plaintiffs allege.

“This behavior was known or would have been known to his parents, had they reviewed his search history on his computer and or cell phone. Thus, they knew and/or should have known of this behavior,” the lawsuit claims.

The complaint then goes on to discuss evidence that the parents allegedly purchased a firearm for Ethan Crumbley as a Christmas gift, took him to the firing range just before the school shooting and did not properly store the gun out of their son’s reach.

More: Were warning signs ignored? A deep dive into evidence against parents of accused Oxford High School shooter

James and Jennifer Crumbley are both facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of four students: 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 17-year-old Justin Shilling.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, is currently facing the following 24 felony charges as an adult in connection with the shooting:

  • One count of terrorism causing death
  • Four counts of first-degree murder
  • Seven counts of assault with intent to murder
  • 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony

A not guilty plea was entered on Ethan Crumbley’s behalf for all counts against him. A court filing Thursday revealed that the accused shooter plans to plead insanity as a defense.

Read more: Court filing: Oxford High School shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley plans insanity defense

Read the entire civil complaint filed Thursday by Ven Johnson Law below.

The Oxford Community Schools district is already facing a $100 million federal civil lawsuit in connection with the shooting.

More: Complete Oxford High School shooting coverage

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.