5 Questions About the Michigan Shooting Addressed by School Officials

For the first time, the school district has given its version of events. In a letter to parents and staff members, it also said it will seek an outside party to conduct an investigation.

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On Saturday, the Michigan school district of Oxford High School, Oxford Community Schools, announced in a letter to parents and staff members that it would seek an outside party to investigate the shootings of Nov. 30 that left four students dead and many wounded. The shooting suspect, Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged with murder and terrorism, and his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Each of them has pleaded not guilty.

In addition to releasing information about an investigation, Tim Throne, the district superintendent, revealed details in his letter about what happened before the shootings, including two meetings school officials had with Ethan Crumbley, the first time that the district had given its version of events.

Here are five questions the school addressed in the letter.

What will the investigation look at?

Mr. Throne said the outside party would examine any communication the school has received as well as “any and all interaction” Ethan Crumbley had with staff and students. Mr. Throne also said the district plans to ask an independent security consultant to review the district’s safety practices and procedures.

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A salon window the day after the shooting. Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

What was the first meeting about?

On Nov. 29, Mr. Throne wrote, a teacher saw Mr. Crumbley viewing images of bullets on his cellphone during class. A counselor and a staff member met with him, and he indicated that shooting sports were a family hobby, the letter said. The school tried to contact Ms. Crumbley but did not hear back right away. The next day, Mr. Crumbley’s parents confirmed his account, the letter said.

What occurred during the second meeting?

On the morning of Nov. 30, the day of the shootings, a teacher observed drawings by Mr. Crumbley that raised concerns. Karen D. McDonald, the prosecutor in Oakland Country, Mich., has said that the drawing featured images of a gun, a person who had been shot, a laughing emoji and the words, “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

The teacher, Mr. Throne said, notified school counselors and the dean of students. Mr. Crumbley was immediately removed from the classroom and taken to the guidance counselor’s office, where he claimed the drawing was part of a video game he was designing, Mr. Throne said.

According to the letter, the school had difficulty reaching Mr. Crumbley’s parents, and he remained in the office for an hour and a half before they arrived. During that time, school officials observed Mr. Crumbley and spoke with him.

After his parents arrived, school officials asked “specific probing questions” regarding Mr. Crumbley’s potential to harm others or himself, Mr. Throne said. Mr. Crumbley’s answers, which were confirmed by his parents, led counselors to conclude that he did not intend to hurt anyone, the superintendent said.

“At no time did counselors believe the student might harm others based on his behavior, responses and demeanor, which appeared calm,” wrote Mr. Throne, referring to both meetings.

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The streets of downtown Oxford, Mich., were closed on Friday as mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil.Credit…Sarah Rice for The New York Times

Counseling was recommended for Mr. Crumbley, and his parents were told they had 48 hours to seek counseling for their child or the school would contact Children’s Protective Services, Mr. Throne wrote.

“When the parents were asked to take their son home for the day,” he wrote, “they flatly refused and left without their son, apparently to return to work.”

Because their son had no previous disciplinary infractions, “the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house.”

Was the principal consulted?

According to the letter, the decisions related to both meetings remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the principal’s or assistant principal’s offices. The counselors made judgments based on their training and clinical experience, Mr. Throne said, “and did not have all the facts we now know.”

Did Ethan Crumbley have a gun in his backpack during the second meeting?

Mr. Throne said that whether Mr. Crumbley had a firearm in his backpack during the meeting “has not been confirmed by law enforcement at this time nor by our investigation at this time.” But Mr. Throne wrote that, “The student’s parents never advised the school district that he had direct access to a firearm or that they had recently purchased a firearm for him.”

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