Parents of 2 Oxford shooting survivors sue school staffers, district

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The parents of two students who survived the Oxford High School shooting last year are suing staffers and the district, alleging they failed to protect the youths and had reason to believe the suspect would commit violence.

The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court lists Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Timothy Throne; Principal Steven Wolf; dean of students Nicholas Ejak; counselors Pam Fine and Shawn Hopkins; as well as three unidentified teachers.

It was launched by the lawyer for the mother of John and Anthony Asciutto as well as the father of another student, Marco Vackaro.

Much of the filing centers on the events leading up to accused shooter Ethan Crumbley bringing a Sig Sauer handgun to the high school on Nov. 30.

Among the allegations are that Throne and Wolf “had knowledge of (Crumbley’s) mental disturbance and dangerous ideations,” including after he allegedly left a severed bird head in the boys’ bathroom and “posted countdowns and threats of bodily harm, including death, on his social media accounts.”

A memorial honors shooting victims at the front entrance of Oxford High School on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

The lawsuit accuses the superintendent and principal of downplaying the incidents and ordering others not to discuss them.

It alleges Fine failed to notify police or the school liaison officer after learning the day before the shooting that Crumbley allegedly had ammunition and a teacher saw him searching for more online.

On Nov. 30, after a teacher allegedly spotted Crumbley’s disturbing pictures in math class, including writing “blood everywhere” and depicting shooting victims, his backpack wasn’t searched, the court filing alleges.

“ ..."Defendants who knew the relevant facts, knew that (Crumbley) needed immediate psychiatric intervention and should not be allowed access to the school and its students until the same could be obtained. …Upon information and belief, after being allowed to return to his classroom, EC took his backpack to a school bathroom, loaded ammunition into the 9mm handgun, and commenced his mass school shooting,” attorney Robert Giroux said in the filing.

District officials and the attorney representing the school did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit recounts that John Asciutto and Marko Vackaro were shot at while walking down a hallway. Vackaro was not struck and drove Asciutto to the hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, Asciutto’s brother hid with more than 20 other students in a classroom for about an hour, according to the lawsuit. “During that time, they heard someone using the handles on the art room door, trying to enter,” Giroux wrote.

Four Oxford classmates — Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17 — died in the attack. Six other students and a teacher were wounded.

The suit accuses the defendants of supervisory liability, state-created danger and violating Michigan’s Child Protection Act. It seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

The shooting has sparked other litigation.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed a $100 million lawsuit against the district on behalf of survivors of the mass shooting in December then amended it with 11 new counts against school officials.

In response to that case, Oxford school officials have denied "they were negligent in any manner.” Their lawyer also has called the allegations false and said his clients would claim they are immune from liability.

Myre’s parents have also sued Crumbley, his parents as well as six high school personnel.

Meanwhile, Crumbley remains at the Oakland County Jail as he awaits trial on 24 felonies including first-degree murder and terrorism. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

His parents, James and Jennifer, were ordered this week to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the rampage.