A Michigan school district superintendent defended the guidance counselors who sent the Oxford High School shooting suspect back to class after meeting with him the morning of the attack, saying the student's parents had withheld relevant information.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne wrote in a letter to the community Saturday that he had requested a third-party investigation to review all interactions between the alleged shooter, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, and school staff and students. He also vowed transparency and offered answers to some of the questions about potential warning signs of the violence that left four students — Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, and Justin Shilling — dead and seven others, including a teacher, injured in the shooting Tuesday.
On Sunday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted that her office had reached out to the school offering to conduct the investigation.
Authorities previously revealed that the alleged shooter was referred to guidance counselors Monday, then again the morning of the shooting when a teacher found a note on his desk with a drawing of a handgun, bullet, and a person bleeding from gunshot wounds. That incident was never elevated to the principal or assistant principal's office, Throne said, and the teen was ultimately returned to class after his parents refused to take him home.
Throne said counselors had concluded that the teen did not intend to harm himself or others, and decided it was better to send him back to class than send him home to an empty house while his parents returned to work.
"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," Throne wrote in the letter, which was published by WXYZ Detroit. "Our counselors are deeply committed longstanding school members who have dedicated their lives to supporting students and addressing student mental health and behavioral issues."
The alleged shooter was first referred to counselors Nov. 29 after a teacher saw him looking at bullets on his phone during class. According to the superintendent, the teen said that shooting sports were a family hobby and he had recently been at a shooting range with his mom. Counselors could not initially reach his parents, and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said at a press conference Friday that they had not responded to a phone call or email. McDonald added that investigators did learn, however, that the student's mom, Jennifer Crumbley, texted her son to say, “lol I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."
Then, on the morning of Nov. 30, just prior to the attack, he was referred to counselors again, and his parents were called in for a meeting after a teacher found the disturbing drawing. Throne said that counselors spent an hour and a half with the teen while they waited for his parents to arrive. During that time, the teen did homework and claimed that the drawing, which included a laughing emoji and the phrase “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” was part of a video game he was designing.
Throne said that after observing the teen and asking him “specific probing questions,” which his parents “affirmed” the answers to, counselors concluded that he did not intend to harm himself or others.
However, Throne added that James and Jennifer Crumbley, who have now pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, never told the school that their son had access to a gun. Investigators have said they believe the gun was in the teen's backpack during the meeting, which Throne questioned in his letter, saying that “whether or not the gun was in his backpack has not been confirmed by law enforcement to our knowledge nor by our investigation at this time.”
Throne did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment. Attorneys for the Crumbleys declined to comment.