Oxford officials clarify rumors about Nov. 30 school shooting

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Oxford Community Schools officials issued "clarifying" details this week about events leading up to and on the day of the school shooting at Oxford High School to address rumors, including that officials were unaware of the suspect's social media presence or related posts until after the Nov. 30 incident.

In a post late Tuesday on the district's website, Superintendent Tim Throne wrote that high school administrators and a person identified as a "restorative practices coordinator" did not interact with suspect Ethan Crumbley prior to the shooting. A meeting that took place earlier in the day was between Crumbley, a counselor and the high school's dean of students, Throne said. He did not identify those staffers by name.

The district has been criticized for releasing Crumbley, an Oxford High School sophomore, back into school after he was pulled from class after a teacher saw a disturbing drawing on his desk that depicted a gun, a bullet and a bleeding shooting victim.

School officials say Crumbley's parents refused to take him home from school after the meeting with the dean and the counselor. 

The American flag remains at half staff at Oxford High School on Dec. 30, 2021 for students shot and killed on the Oxford campus.

Crumbley, 15, faces 24 charges in the shooting, including terrorism causing death and murder. Students Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17, were killed in the shooting.

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High school administrators, including Principal Steve Wolf, Assistant Principal Kristy Gibson-Marshall and Assistant Principal Kurt Nuss ran toward the incident to "effectively save children, administer aid to injured parties, and to locate the (alleged) perpetrator, putting themselves in harm’s way," Throne wrote.

"As an administrative team, we are extremely proud of their brave efforts that day," Throne wrote.

Throne wrote in the post that the district has received several inquiries related to the events leading up to Nov. 30 and felt it was important to clarify details the district can address, including an incident with a deer head dumped outside the high school and an incident where the head of a bird was found in a jar in a school bathroom.

The Nov. 4 deer head incident was investigated by law enforcement and was not related to Crumbley, Throne said. Officials at the Oakland County Sheriff's Department confirmed Wednesday a case is pending in the matter and it is not connected to Crumbley.

"Social media posts students shared after this event with OHS were also investigated and shared with law enforcement. They were also in no way related to the perpetrator of the November 30 incident," Throne wrote.

On Nov. 11, the head of a bird was found in a jar in a bathroom and was investigated by law enforcement, Throne wrote. School officials reviewed video footage inside the school over two days and interviewed students, Throne wrote, and law enforcement investigated the incident before Nov. 30.

"....And determined there was no threat to the high school. They were unable to determine when or how the jar was delivered. No threat or other content accompanied the strange act," Throne wrote.

In court filings related to criminal charges against Crumbley's parents, Oakland County prosecutors allege Crumbley kept a jar containing the head of a baby bird in his bedroom and later brought the jar to school and left it in a bathroom.

Throne said allegations of live ammunition being discovered at a school are "completely false" and the district has no record or report of live ammunition being reported at any school.

All tips from OK2SAY from Nov. 1-30 were forwarded to law enforcement and each tip was fully investigated by police, Throne wrote.

"The only actionable information received was on November 17 from an anonymous tip stating that a student, who is no longer a student of Oxford High School and not the (alleged) perpetrator from November 30, was responsible for the bird head," Throne wrote.

Oxford Community Schools is facing a pair of $100 million lawsuits tied to the shooting. The civil suits, filed by survivors of the country's deadliest school shooting since 2018, argue Crumbley had posted threatening comments on social media and the district knew about it but downplayed the danger and failed to protect fellow students. 

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Throne wrote that the district will respond in detail to the "false allegations and reckless statements" made by attorney Geoffrey Fieger who represents two OHS students but has been asked by the prosecutor to not "unduly" comment.

"Your many questions will be answered in short order as the criminal prosecution moves forward and the school district responds to the inaccurate filing by Mr. Fieger," Throne wrote.

The lawsuit accuses school officials of failing to stop an attack that inflicted physical and psychological injuries on students and spreads the blame among the highest-ranking Oxford school officials along with unidentified teachers and counselors.

Jim Harrington, an attorney with Fieger Law, said the school district simply does not like being sued and is hiding behind insurance company litigators, "instead of cooperating with us and identifying where the system broke down."

The district is holding open houses this week to have high school students return to the building before Monday, the first day of classes in the building since the shooting.

jchambers@detroitnews.com