20 Oxford High School students to file federal lawsuit against school district months after shooting
Four students were killed in the November shooting.
Months after four students were killed in a school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, 20 students announced Friday they filed a federal lawsuit against the district and several administrators demanding policy changes, in part to increase safety at the school.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern Division of the Eastern District of Michigan, does not seek monetary damages, but, among other requests, demands an independent and fully transparent third-party investigation into the actions and events leading up to the November shooting.
Oxford Community Schools has declined two offers from the Michigan district attorney to conduct an investigation into the school shooting, saying it will launch a third-party investigation after the civil cases against the district have been litigated.
Ethan Crumbley, a student at the school, is charged with 24 counts after he allegedly shot and killed four of his classmates on Nov. 30.
His parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley are also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly failing to recognize warning signs about their son in the months before the shooting.
All three Crumbleys have pleaded not guilty.
Students are asking a judge to force Oxford Community School District's board and administration to make policy changes the students and parents say they believe are required for effective learning to resume, 10 weeks ahead of the new school year, according to a press release.
The students are seeking a "court order forcing the school to be transparent and to make certain changes," Scott Weidenfeller, a lawyer representing the students and their families, said in a press conference Friday over Zoom.
The students claim the district is violating their constitutional right to a safe and effective educational environment because of its actions, which students claim created and increased the danger of the shooting, and its lack of action since the shooting took place. The students are asking for new policies and practices to ensure the safety of all students at the school.
Oxford students claim policy changes are necessary to correct the district's "constitutional violations."
"There are some harmful policies that are in place, currently, at Oxford, including if there is no disciplinary issue you can't keep the student or send the student home," Weidenfeller said.
The lawsuit accuses the school of knowing the accused school shooter Ethan Crumbley was suicidal and was having homicidal thoughts, but still allowed him to go back to class because of this policy.
In a press release, the students gave examples for policy changes they are asking the district to implement, including transparency regarding future threats of violence, securing of proper training for administrators and staff regarding the restriction of students from returning to class if they are suicidal and/or pose a risk to self or others and trainings for administrators and staff on how to legally search students' belongings when they pose a safety risk.
The lawsuit also details the struggles students say they are facing after the shooting, and that they have "suffered irreparable harm."
"Unable to engage in classes and tackle the daily social and mental hurdles that many encounter in high school, students at Oxford High School have been forced to uncover a level of resilience and a weight of constant fear that should be expected of no one," the lawsuit alleges.
Parents told reporters that returning to school was hard for students.
"Since their return [to school] many students cannot finish a day or a week due to the triggers, but how can they not be triggered when they travel the very scene of the crime every day," said Andrea Jones, the parent of one of the children filing the lawsuit, during the press conference. "How can anyone be expected to learn when you consistently fear for your safety."
"We need answers to be able to fix what went wrong. We are not seeking monetary damages, we are here because we desperately need policy changes," Jones added.
Lori Bourgeau, another parent, told reporters the district failed to be transparent when a power outage caused a lockdown at the school. The parent allege the school and district did not communicate with parents to let them know what was happening and parents were unable to get in touch with the school to get information.
Parents told reporters they have been pressing the district to make changes for months, but the district has been resisting.
"None of us want to be here right now. We have kindly and firmly asked for change and now we are demanding it," said Alicia Feltz, the mother of a freshman at the school.
A representative for Oxford Community Schools did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
In May, another lawsuit was jointly filed by the parents of Justin Shilling and Tate Myre, who were killed in the shooting, and representatives for four minors who were injured in the shooting. In that case, lawyers for the victims' families are requesting damages in addition to interest, costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as punitive and/or exemplary damages.