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Oxford, MI, School Shooting: Parents Damn Well Should be Charged.

December 5, 2021

I often find myself constructing scenarios in my head in which I am strategizing on how I would protect my students– especially how I would help them successfully escape from my classroom– if a shooter were on our campus. I doubt that I am alone in such mental tasks concerning this grievous state of gun violence in American K12 education.

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, I was saddened but not surprised to hear yet another school shooting in the news, this time in Oxford, Michigan.

I cannot reconcile how the simultaneous political messaging for gun rights and parental rights includes no attached, substantial push for the reality that with rights come responsibility.

Parental rights, parental responsibility. Gun rights, gun responsibility.

Rightwing-funded Moms for Liberty but no attendant Moms for Responsibility.

Michigan billionaire and former US ed secretary Betsy DeVos loves to parrot the message that “parents know what is best for their children,” but if that were true (and responsibly acted upon), then 15-year-old Michigan shooter Ethan Crumbley could have certainly been prevented from killing several people, wounding others, and traumatizing his school and others around the nation had his parents acted responsibly.

When your child’s school calls you in for a conference because the child for whom you just purchased a handgun is doodling on his school work about “blood everywhere, my life is useless, the world is dead” as a responsible parent, you take your son home and check to see if the gun you just bought– and that you know is in an unlocked drawer– is indeed at home. Better still, you ask your son if he has a gun at school, and you check his bookbag yourself. If no gun is found, then you take him home and check to see if the gun you bought him is missing. If it is, you find and secure the gun (preferrebly removing it from the home now that you know your child is having homicidal ideation), and you get your child into counseling.

At least take the rest of the day off of work to talk to your son.

But, no. Instead, yet another school shooting transpires in America.

As responsible parents knowing your son has access to a gun that you do not know for sure is at home is you do not choose to leave your child at school.

What you do not do is call 9-1-1 about a missing gun only after your child’s school has notified you of an active shooter on campus.

And while your son sits in jail charged as an adult for killing four people with the gun you bought for him after you incompetently ignored warnings and exercised no responsible precautions, you do not run from facing the consequences of your poor choices by fleeing from the law as your lawyer tells the world you did so for your own safety when you had no concern for the saftey of the now dead, wounded, and traumatized.

In case readers need a more detailed timeline of the events surrounding the Crumbleys and the Oxford (MI) High School shooting, below are details as published by the December 05, 2021, Associated Press (AP):

Friday, Nov. 26: James Crumbley buys a 9mm Sig Sauer from Acme Shooting Goods in Oxford, according to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald. His 15-year-old son Ethan later posts a photo on Instagram of himself holding the semi-automatic handgun, writing: “Just got my new beauty today. SIG SAUER 9mm. Any questions I will answer.” He includes an emoji of a smiling face with heart eyes.

Saturday, Nov. 27: Jennifer Crumbley writes on social media that it is a “mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present,” the prosecutor says.

Monday, Nov. 29: A teacher sees Ethan, a sophomore at Oxford High, searching online for ammunition with his cellphone during class and reports it to school officials, McDonald says. Ethan meets with a school counselor and another staff member. He says he and his mother recently went to a shooting range and that shooting sports are a family hobby, according to Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne.

School personnel call his mother, leave a voicemail and email her. She does not respond. While exchanging text messages with her son, she writes: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

That night, Ethan Crumbley records a video in which he discusses killing students, according to sheriff’s Lt. Tim Willis.

Tuesday, Nov. 30: A teacher finds a note on Ethan’s desk that alarms her enough to take a photo, the prosecutor says. It includes a drawing of a handgun and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” Also depicted is a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” above a person who appears to have been shot twice and is bleeding. A laughing emoji is drawn below the figure. The note also says “my life is useless” and “the world is dead.” The teacher reports the information to school counselors and the dean.

A counselor removes Ethan from the classroom and takes him to the office with his backpack. The counselor obtains the drawing, but Ethan has already scratched out portions. He says the drawing is part of a video game he is designing and that he wants a career as a video game designer, the superintendent says.

The parents are summoned to the school for a meeting that occurs around 10 a.m. While the school tries to reach them, Ethan remains in the office for an hour-and-a-half as counselors continue to observe and speak with him, Throne says. Ethan expresses concern about missing homework assignments and asks for his science homework, which he works on while waiting. The counselors do not believe he will harm others based on his behavior, demeanor and responses, according to the superintendent.

The parents arrive and are shown the note. The counselors ask Ethan about his potential for self-harm or harming others. They again conclude he is not a risk due to his answers, which are affirmed by the parents. The parents are advised that they are required to get him counseling within 48 hours or the school will contact Children’s Protective Services. They refuse a request to take their son home for the day and leave without him, apparently to return to work, Throne says. He returns to the classroom rather than go “home to an empty house,” which the superintendent says is because he had no prior disciplinary infractions.

About 12:51 p.m., Ethan emerges from a bathroom with the gun his father bought four days before. He fires at students in the hallway, killing four and wounding six students and one teacher. Deputies capture him within minutes of the shooting. When news of an active shooter becomes public, Jennifer Crumbley texts her son at 1:22 p.m.: “Ethan don’t do it.” Fifteen minutes later, at 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley calls 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and he believes his son may be the shooter. The gun had been kept unlocked in a drawer in the parents’ bedroom, McDonald says.

Wednesday, Dec. 1: Ethan is charged as an adult with murder and terrorism.

Friday, Dec. 3: James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with involuntary manslaughter. Authorities cannot find them, and a manhunt is launched.

Saturday, Dec. 4: The Crumbleys are arrested around 1:30 a.m. after being caught hiding at a commercial building in Detroit. They enter not guilty pleas during a Zoom hearing, and a judge sets bond at $500,000 for each.

The superintendent announces there will be a third-party review of all events in the past week because the community and families “deserve a full, transparent accounting of what occurred.”

Absolutely, there should be a review of the action of school authorities. Did they responsibly follow prodecure? Should they have insisted that Ethan be removed immediately from the school grounds given that they imposed required counseling for the student?

However, the greater issue here is that Ethan Crumbley’s parents appear grossly and recklessly irresponsible for not directly telling school officials, “We just bought Ethan a gun, and we cannot in this moment verify that the gun is indeed at our home.”

It is right that James and Jennifer Crumbley face charges for their roles in enabling their son to murder, harm, and terrorize his high school, and I will tell you, as a K12 teacher who engages in mental exercises on saving my students from dying of gunshot wounds in my classroom, I was danm well pleased to hear Oakland County, Michigan, prosecutor Karen McDonald, formally charge James and Jennifer Crumbley with involuntary manslaughter. Below are excerpted responses from her December 03, 2021, press conference:

While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on Nov. 30. And it is my intention to hold them accountable as well. It’s imperative we prevent this from happening again. No other parent or community should have to live through this nightmare.

Gun ownership is a right. And with that right comes great responsibility.

I want to be really clear that these charges are intended to hold individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences. 

We need to do better in this country. We need to say enough is enough, for our kids, our teachers, parents and all of us in this community and the communities across this nation.

I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have children who are struggling and at risk for whatever reason. And I am, by no means, saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents. But the facts of this case are so egregious — reading this document, looking at it, reading the words, ‘Help me’ with a gun, blood everywhere. This doesn’t just impact me as a prosecutor and a lawyer, it impacts me as a mother. The notion that a parent could read those words and know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable and I think criminal. It is criminal.

When you give your child access to a deadly weapon, when you indicate that you’re buying a weapon and you sign that it’s for yourself, yet — clearly, based on the statements of the shooter, the statements of mom — that was his gun. Then we have the searching of ammunition. We have mom saying, ‘At least you didn’t get caught.’ We have, the next morning, drawing essentially, almost explicitly, what he was about to do. I expect parents and everyone to have humanity and to step in and stop a potential tragedy.

They (parents) did not indicate to school officials, or to their son, and inquire about the whereabouts of the gun, or the existence of the gun, to my knowledge.

He (suspect) was not removed from the school. He was returned back to class with his backpack, where we have reason to believe the gun was stored in the backpack.

I have spoken to the (victims’) parents and indicated the nature of the charges that might be coming. I have not spoken about the school. These people are in incredibly deep, horrific pain and grief. Their reaction is as you expect. They will want anyone who had the opportunity to stop this from happening to have done it.

There was absolute reason to believe this individual was dangerous and disturbed.

Michigan’s laws are woefully inadequate. We don’t have have a safe storage law. You’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner. … We don’t have strong enough laws.

There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent. And, yes, there was a perfectly executed response and he was apprehended immediately. And we have great law enforcement and good training. But … four kids were murdered and then seven more injured. So, so yes, I think we should all be very angry and we should take a very hard look at what is in place in terms of criminal responsibility, what gun owners are required to do.

I am not here to say that people shouldn’t own guns. I know a lot of people who own guns, but they do so responsibly. And it’s your responsibility, it’s your duty, to make sure that you don’t give access to this deadly weapon to somebody that you have reason to believe is going to harm someone.

It is our position that, on that morning, particularly that morning, but also the day before, but that morning, looking at that drawing, it’s impossible not to conclude that there was a reason to believe he was going to hurt somebody.

Parental rights, parental responsibility. Gun rights, gun responsibility.

Ethan, Jennifer, and James Crumbley

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5 Comments
  1. The administrators involved should also be held responsible. First step being fired for incompetence.

  2. In a just country the Supreme Court would be charged as accessories.

  3. The warped, perverted, and strict destructionist interpretations of the Supreme Court since 2005 are responsible for thousands of senseless killings in the same way the executive malfeasance of Covid Donny are responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.

  4. ed: malfeasance … is responsible

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