Nessel, parents blast Oxford schools for delaying shooting investigation

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Tate Myre's father said the decision by Oxford Community Schools' officials to delay an independent investigation into last fall's mass shooting for what could be years is an admission of guilt for their role in his son's death.

Buck Myre spoke Wednesday in a virtual news conference the day after Oxford school board President Tom Donnelly, Jr. said an independent review would not be conducted until civil litigation and criminal cases connected to the Nov. 30 attack that killed four students are resolved.

"It still angers us. To me this is an admission of guilt," Myre said during a press conference at his attorney's office. "They know things didn’t go right that day and they don't want to stand up and fix it. They are going to hide behind government immunity, insurance and lawyers. What does this teach the kids?"

Meghan Gregory, whose son Keegan Gregory survived the shooting, also spoke during the press conference with attorney Ven Johnson, saying the district's explanation is confusing.

"I don’t know why they keep saying they need anything from the Oakland County sheriff or prosecutor's office when it's an internal investigation. They are the ones who know what happened that day, they are the ones who know what the breakdown would have been," Gregory said.

Both families have sued alleged shooter Ethan Crumbley and his parents along with six school district personnel.

Both parents said performing the independent investigation is important so they can understand what happened that day and what the district is doing differently to protect children who attend school there now.

Keegan has not returned to school, his mother said. He was in the bathroom with Justin Shilling when Shilling, 17, was fatally shot, and he ran past Tate Myre's body after escaping, she said.

Gregory said she has four other children she sends to school every day.

"That day terrified us. We didn't know if our kid was going to make it out of there," she said. "We need to know our four other kids are going to be safe going to that school."

And Keegan needs to know there are changes too, she said.

"He needs to know that there is going to be new protocol, that there is safety. I don't know if we will ever get him back to school," she said.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Wednesday accused Oxford's school board members of being "more focused on limiting liability" than responding to the concerns of the community and investigating the events that led up to the shooting at the Oakland County district in which six students and a teacher were wounded.

Donnelly also said Tuesday the district was declining, for the second time in less than six months, an offer from Nessel to investigate the incident.

Oxford Community Schools Board President Tom Donnelly, Jr. takes notes during the board meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

"Given the nature and the breadth of the current criminal and civil proceedings, the review of the tragedy and associative events of Nov. 30, 2021, will not occur until the criminal and civil litigations are complete," Donnelly said Tuesday during a school board meeting. "Once the litigation process is completed and all information has risen to the surface, a team of experts will conduct a third-party review. Our subcommittee has begun the process of vetting.”

Donnelly said the Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Sheriff Michael Bouchard have information about the incident that the district does not have.

"It would be ill-advised for us to start a third-party investigation if we don't know the facts," said Donnelly, who acknowledged that many in the community have demanded that the district begin a review of what happened on Nov. 30 and what can be done to prevent it from recurring.

Nessel said she was "deeply disappointed by the school board’s repeated rejection of my offers" to conduct an independent review of the events of the days preceding the incident. 

"My goal is not to assign blame but to help identify ways to improve school safety for Oxford and all schools in Michigan," Nessel said in the statement. "The school board’s unwillingness to partner with my department on this effort flies in the face of transparency. The rejection sends a message that the board is more focused on limiting liability than responding to the loud outcry from the Oxford community to deliver greater peace of mind to the students, parents and educators that lived through this traumatic event." 

Nessel, who met privately with parents last month, said she would return to the community to "be a resource."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she was "deeply disappointed" by the Oxford Community Schools' Board of Education's rejection of her offers to conduct an independent review of what led to the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School.

“My department can only perform an exhaustive and thorough review when we have the full cooperation of the school board and district. Absent that partnership, I am restricted to the publicly available information we have all read and reviewed. This latest setback does not deter my efforts to share best practices across our state in order to help all schools improve the safety and security of their learning environments.” 

The district is facing at least four state and federal lawsuits over the shooting.

"I know it's wanted. It's wanted by us as well," Donnelly said. "We still want to get it done. We are not changing anything. We are evolving on how this should be accomplished. We are modifying it."

Donnelly said the district never defined the third-party process in December when it committed to undertake one. He said he sees the review as having two key components: the Nov. 30 tragedy and the district’s three-year recovery plan, which is now under development by Superintendent Ken Weaver and his administration.

“We see this as several independent reviews, not one,” Donnelly said.

Other parents, including Steve St. Juliana, the father of Hana St. Juliana, one of the students killed in the rampage, have said they are outraged no independent investigation has been conducted nearly six months after the shooting.

"I think that the board’s decision speaks volumes on its own as to its priorities," St. Juliana said.

Lori Bourgeau, the parent of an Oxford High School student, said the district’s decision tells her everything she needs to know.

“We need protection from your poor judgment,” Bourgeau said. “You should all resign immediately and allow board members who have our students' safety and security as a top priority step in and take over because you are clearly concerned about you and not us.”

Lawsuits stemming from mass school shootings could take years to resolve.

In March, the Department of Justice announced it had settled the 40 civil cases arising out of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Survivors of the shooting and the families of 16 people killed sued the government for damages, according to a statement by the department. The litigation began in late 2018.

According to the Associated Press, families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting agreed in February to a settlement of a lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012.

The families and a survivor of the shooting sued Remington in 2015.