Oxford school officials deny negligence ahead of November mass shooting

Kalea Hall and Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Oxford school officials have denied "they were negligent in any manner" in response to a lawsuit that accuses them of gross negligence and failing to prevent the deadly November Oxford High School shooting.

Oxford Schools Superintendent Timothy Throne

The defendants, including school Superintendent Timothy Throne and Oxford High Principal Steven Wolf, "were guided by and strictly observed all legal duties and obligations imposed by operation of law and otherwise," a Friday court filing from school attorney Timothy Mullins says. "Further, all actions of their agents, servants and/or employees were careful, prudent, proper and lawful."

Oxford High School Principal Steven Wolf

Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger originally filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of survivors of the mass shooting in December. Fieger amended the $100 million lawsuit last month, adding 11 new counts against school officials after more information emerged about how 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley allegedly shot and killed four of his classmates and wounded seven others, including a teacher. 

Crumbley faces four counts of first-degree premeditated murder and 20 other felonies. He's pleaded not guilty and he plans to plead insanity, according to a late January court filing

Fieger's 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.

On the day of the shooting, one of Crumbley's teachers saw graphic drawings with violent images and pleas for help and reported what she saw to counselors, according to police and school officials.

Crumbley allegedly told counselors once he was taken to the office that his drawing was part of a video game he was designing and that he planned to pursue video game design as a career, Throne said in a statement. Crumbley remained in the office for about 90 minutes and worked on school assignments while the school tried to reach his parents.

"The individually named defendants are each responsible through their actions for making the student victims less safe, causing the students to be in direct harm, and acting in a manner that was so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results," Fieger wrote in his lawsuit. 

Mullins previously called the allegations false and said Oxford school officials will claim they are immune from liability.

“There is a criminal investigation and prosecution taking place and the Oakland County prosecutor has asked us not to comment upon the facts of the case so as to avoid any interference,” Mullins has said. “Our priority is to get the kids back to school. There will be plenty of time for comment.”