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Judge: Oxford Schools, staff immune from shooting lawsuits

A makeshift memorial sits outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., last week.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
A makeshift memorial sits outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., last week.

A Michigan judge has ruled that staff and administrators at Oxford High School cannot be sued for a mass shooting that left four students dead and seven others wounded.

Oakland County Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan also dismissed Oxford Community Schools from civil lawsuits related to the shooting, stating that the district and staff are protected by governmental immunity.

Ethan Crumbley, 16, has pleaded guilty to using a semi-automatic handgun to open fire November 30, 2021 on other teenagers in the hallway at the school roughly 30 miles north of Detroit. The four students who were killed were 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 17-year-old Justin Shilling.

A lawyer representing some families of the victims who filed the lawsuit has said some teachers and a counselor at the high school were aware of Crumbley’s troubling interest in guns and violence months before the mass shooting.

But Brennan placed the responsibility on Crumbley, writing in Friday’s order that “the court concludes that Ethan Crumbley’s act of firing the gun, rather than the alleged conduct of the individual Oxford defendants, was ‘the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage.’”

Detroit-based attorney Ven Johnson said he plans to appeal Brennan’s ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

“On behalf of our Oxford clients, we are deeply saddened and disappointed by Judge Brennan’s dismissal today of all the Oxford Community Schools defendants,” Johnson said. “We maintain that governmental immunity is wrong and unconstitutional, and the law should be changed immediately.”

A group of Oxford parents and students who filed a federal lawsuit seeking a court-ordered safety plan for schools in the district says “some schools will hide behind governmental immunity to protect themselves instead of our students and children.”

“As long as governmental immunity completely shields schools like Oxford, it will only serve to deny families transparency, justice, and accountability,” Change 4 Oxford said in a statement. “Without real change, our schools’ incentive to truly improve safety policies will remain limited due to their ability to hide behind immunity when future tragedies occur.”

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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