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Michigan Oxford school defends missing signs of shooter’s ‘troubling’ behavior

At the Michigan school where a student shot and killed four teens and wounded seven others, officials are defending how they handled the suspects troubling behavior. Two teachers noted disturbing activity by the student, but the school says it had no reason to think he was dangerous.

“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made [that] he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house,” said Tim Throne, Oxford Community Schools Superintendent, in a statement on Saturday. “These incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the principal or assistant principal’s office.”

Throne admitted that school authority accepted shooter Ethan Crumbley’s explanations for why he was viewing pictures of bullets on his phone and had made violent images and statements. His parents were called but refused to take him home, and he was returned to class.

The first incident occurred on November 29, the day before the shooting, when Ethan was found looking at photos of bullets on his phone during class. He explained that to a counselor saying that shooting was a family hobby, and after the school tried to call his mother, Jennifer, to discuss, she did not call back.

The next day, though, his parents were called into the school because that morning, a teacher saw “concerning drawings and written statements,” which police have said included drawings of a handgun, a person who had been shot, laughing emojis, a bullet, and several disturbing phrases.

Ethan said the drawings were part of a video game he was designing, and as he waited for his parents, he busied himself with homework, according to the superintendent, who added that “at no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm.” 

The Crumbleys never told school officials that Ethan had direct access to a firearm or that they had purchased a firearm for him recently. They also refused to take him home and instead returned back to work. Police said he apparently had the gun in his backpack during the meeting then brought it back to class, and he later emerged from a bathroom, firing the Sig Sauer 9mm.

Throne added that blame should not be placed on the counselors for the incident. “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,” he wrote.

Ethan’s parents, Jennifer and James, have both been charged with involuntary manslaughter for purchasing him the gun he used in the shooting and failing to take action after the school highlighted his behavior. 

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES

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