Judge Rules Oxford Schools, Staff Can’t Be Sued Over 2021 Mass Shooting
The Michigan judge argued Oxford Community Schools and its employees are protected by governmental immunity.
OXFORD, Mich. — A Michigan judge ruled Friday that Oxford Community Schools and its staff cannot be sued over the 2021 mass shooting that claimed the lives of four students and injured seven others. Killed in the rampage were 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling.
Oakland County Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan dismissed the school district from civil lawsuits related to the shooting at Oxford High School, arguing the district and the high school’s employees are protected by governmental immunity, reports Fox News. Commonly referred to as sovereign immunity, governmental immunity is a rule that protects federal or state government from liability for its actions or those of its employees.
“The court concludes that [the shooter’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,'” Brennan wrote.
Attorney Ven Johnson, who represents the families of students who were killed in the shooting, 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,” he wrote in a statement.”We maintain that governmental immunity is wrong and unconstitutional, and the law should be changed immediately.”
Several lawsuits filed by survivors and victims’ families accused the district and staff of negligence, gross negligence, and violating the Child Protection Law, among other allegations.
Two former school board members claim the district did not implement its own threat assessment policy which they say could have prevented the shooting. For months, the 15-year-old shooter demonstrated “concerning behavior that indicated psychiatric distress, suicidal or homicidal tendencies, and the possibility of child abuse and neglect,” one of the lawsuits alleged. That particular lawsuit now leaves the shooter and his parents as defendants.
A day before the shooting, a teacher saw the teen researching ammunition on his phone. Prosecutors say the school then contacted the student’s parents but they didn’t respond. His mother later told him in a text message: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” Under the school’s policy, the two whistleblowers said the student should have been sent home.
The following day, a teacher discovered a drawing with a gun and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” There was also an image of a bullet with the words, “Blood everywhere.” The boy’s parents were called into the school to discuss the disturbing drawing but declined to take him home. He was not removed from the school and his parents were told to get him counseling within 48 hours. The gunman opened fire soon after his parents left the school.
The Oakland County sheriff and prosecutor Karen McDonald have both condemned the district for failing to alert a school resource officer about the shooter’s concerning behavior and failing to search his backpack before allowing him to return to class.
In October, the shooter pleaded guilty to all counts and faces up to life in prison with no possibility of parole. The shooter’s parents have pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter.
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I’m OK with limited government immunity… EXCEPT where it can be demonstrated that the governmental entity and their agents (teachers, administrators, etc) were clearly negligent in that they did not adhere to stated policies which they could have been expected to know and enforce. Negligence is negligence and being an employee does not excuse a person from failing to act appropriately.