What does it take to get suspended from Oxford High or searched after violent scribbles?
That question arises after news that Ethan Crumbley was sent back to class after spending at least two hours Tuesday morning with guidance counselors, a meeting that ended after his father and mother arrived. "When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day, they flatly refused and left without their son," the district superintendent confirms Saturday afternoon.
The sit-down was provoked by red flags the superintendent blandly describes as "concerning drawings and written statements" that alarmed his teacher. What the 15-year-old sophomore drew was a gun, a bullet and a body shot twice. What he wrote alongside included "blood everywhere," "the thoughts won't stop - help me," "my life is useless" and "the world is dead."
Hours later, four schoolmates were fatally injured and six others were wounded. Now, legal specialists are being interviewed about accountability for Oxford Community Schools.
"There is some culpability and responsibility here on the part of the school," Northville lawyer Mike Kelly tells The New York Times. He regularly represents students facing expulsion.
The paper quotes five others Saturday "about the school’s responsibility and whether there could be legal repercussions for administrators."
Catherine J. Ross, a law professor at George Washington University and expert on student rights, said she found the school’s reaction "truly astounding." It was well within the school’s rights to require Mr. Crumbley, who has since pleaded not guilty to 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."
The Times predicts that "the Oxford school system will most likely face years of litigation over the shooting, if recent history is any guide." The Northville attorney tells the paper: "I definitely think that there’s going to be a lawsuit."
In one notable case, when a substitute teacher was told of a threat but failed to take action, the insurance company for Marysville School District in Washington paid $18 million to the families of four dead students [in 2017], as well as to one student who was injured.