DETROIT—A group of families won a key court victory Friday in an effort to pin some responsibility on a Michigan school district for a shooting that left four students dead and seven others wounded in 2021.
The families can pursue claims that the Oxford district pushed Ethan Crumbley “closer to violent action” when officials threatened to contact child-welfare authorities unless his parents quickly put the teenager into counseling, a federal judge said.
The “allegations are sufficient to withstand dismissal,” though they would still need to be developed through deposition interviews and other evidence, said US District Judge Mark Goldsmith, who dismissed other portions of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleging civil rights violations by the Oxford district is at an early stage. A similar but separate lawsuit in state court was dismissed in March based on governmental immunity.
“We’re one step closer to holding (Oxford) and its employees accountable and proving in court they could have prevented this nightmare,” attorney Ven Johnson said.
An email seeking comment on the judge’s decision was sent to the district.
Crumbley, 17, is awaiting sentencing for killing four students and wounding seven other people at Oxford High School in 2021. A teacher found that he had drawn violent images and messages on a math assignment earlier that day but was allowed to stay in school. He was 15 at the time.
Crumbley’s parents were summoned to a meeting about the drawing but didn’t take him home. His school backpack with a gun and ammunition was never inspected.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter. They’re not accused of knowing that Ethan would commit a school shooting. But prosecutors said they made a gun accessible to him at home and also failed to get him mental-health treatment.