Oxford shooting families get key win in lawsuit against district

A federal judge has ruled that a civil lawsuit filed against the Oxford School district and school counselor can move forward, overruling a decision that blocked the suit.

U.S. Federal Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled on Friday that the family can pursue a civil case that can pin some of the blame of the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting on the district. The Oxford High School shooting ended with four students dead and seven others hurt.

A civil case filed against the district claims that the school pushed Ethan Crumbley "closer to violent action" when it threatened to contact child-welfare authorities unless his parents quickly put the teenager into counseling, Goldsmith said in his ruling.

The "allegations are sufficient to withstand dismissal," though they would still need to be developed through deposition interviews and other evidence, Goldsmith said. He also dismissed other portions of the lawsuit.

"I want the truth to come out. I want accountability," said Steve St. Juliana, the father of Hana St. Juliana, one of the four killed that day. "The school was totally unprepared. They didn't follow any policies that they actually did have in place. They didn't have people trained to deal with it correctly. They didn't even follow common sense. I would be hard pressed to find something that they actually did correct that day."

The civil suit claims 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.

Crumbley, 17, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to shooting the other students. 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, which contained a gun and ammunition that day, was never searched.

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. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.