The Family Of Two Oxford High Students, Including One Who Was Shot In The Neck, Is Suing The School District

The lawsuit alleges that school officials "failed the students at Oxford High School at virtually every turn" in the shooting that killed four students, an attorney representing the family said.

Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images

The family of two Oxford High School students has filed a lawsuit over the Nov. 30 shooting that killed four students and injured seven others, alleging everyone from teachers to administrators failed to keep the campus safe "at virtually every turn."

Filed Thursday, the federal lawsuit alleges that officials at the Michigan school district played a part in failing to prevent the shooting and protect students, including the family's two daughters, Bella Franz, 14, and Riley Franz, 17.

Riley, a senior, was shot in the neck, and Bella "narrowly escaped the bullets discharged towards her," the lawsuit states.

"We have filed a federal lawsuit ... alleging that the counselors, teachers, the school administrators who failed the students at Oxford High School at virtually every turn, therefore violating the civil rights of the Oxford High School students who were injured and killed during the slaughter," Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney representing the family, said at a news conference.

School principal Steven Wolf and district superintendent Tim Throne, as well as two counselors, two teachers, and a staff member — all unnamed — are listed as defendants in the $100 million lawsuit.

The lawsuit once again spotlights the role of school officials in the events leading up to the shooting. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald previously laid out concerns brought up by two separate teachers over the suspect's behavior in the classroom, including one incident that led to the school calling his parents in for a meeting hours before the shooting.

Neither of those incidents led to disciplinary action, though McDonald said that a school counselor had requested the parents remove the suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, from school on the morning of the shooting — a request his parents refused.

The school district has defended its staffers' actions, saying they were not informed by the suspect's parents that he had "direct access to a firearm or that they had recently purchased a firearm for him." In a letter on Saturday, Throne said school counselors who spoke to the suspect both times had concluded that he did not intend to harm himself or others, and the incidents were not elevated to the principal or assistant principal.

"Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house," Throne wrote. "While we understand this decision has caused anger, confusion and prompted understandable questioning, the counselors made a judgment based on their professional training and clinical experience and did not have all the facts we now know."

A sign in a storefront window reads "pray for Oxford"
Jeff Kowalsky / AFP via Getty Images

A sign in a restaurant window in Oxford, Michigan.

The students at Oxford High, and the Franz teenagers in particular, "would have been safer had the Individual Defendants not taken the actions they did," the lawsuit states.

Included in court documents are details about a Nov. 16 correspondence between "multiple concerned parents" and the principal about "threats to students made on social media."

"I know it's been investigated, but my kid doesn't feel safe at school," the parents told Wolf.

Wolf, in turn, assured parents that there were no threats at the school, the lawsuit states.

"I know I'm being redundant here, but there is absolutely no threat at the HS ... large assumptions were made from a few social media posts, then the assumptions evolved into exaggerated rumors," he wrote.

On Nov. 12, administrators posted a note online acknowledging rumors circulating in the school that had "created some concern for students and parents." Some of the rumors stemmed from an incident the week prior in which a deer head was found on the school courtyard (law enforcement officials have said that incident was unrelated to the shooting), the note said, while others were not connected.

"Please know that we have reviewed every concern shared with us and investigated all information provided," school administrators said. "Student interpretations of social media posts and false information have exacerbated the overall concern. We want our parents and students to know there has been no threat to our building nor our students."

It's unclear what exactly those rumors were about. The lawsuit also does not explicitly say where or whom the threats came from and if the correspondence between Wolf and the parents was related to the school's Nov. 12 note. BuzzFeed News did not immediately hear back from Wolf or Throne.

It's not the first time families of the victims and survivors have sued a school district over a shooting. The families of the 2018 Parkland school shooting victims sued the district before reaching a $25 million settlement this year.

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