Oxford shooting report lays blame at school officials. Can it be used in court?

The conclusion from an extensive report into the Oxford High School mass shooting determined the tragedy could have been prevented.

Poor threat assessment was done, and the threats that were discovered were not reported to the principal. And on the day of the shooting, no one monitored the whereabouts and surroundings of the shooter.

Those determinations simplify the findings of a 572-page report from Guidepost Solutions LLC, an independent firm that was hired by the school board to assess what went wrong and what went right before and after the mass shooting.

The report largely places blame at the feet of some school employees.

"It could’ve been avoided, it should’ve been avoided," said Attorney Ven Johnson.


Oxford High School shooting independent report: 'District failed to provide safe environment'

"Our investigation has revealed that had proper threat assessment guidelines been in place and District threat assessment policy followed, this tragedy was avoidable," the report said.

Johnson has represented several victims during the civil case against the school district. It's being appealed after a lower court dismissed the case due to governmental immunity. He says the report validates what he already knew: the Oxford school administration dropped the ball.

"Never reported to a principal? You had this kid in the office and you don’t even tell the principal who is what? Three doors down, two doors down?" Johnson asked. 

Community members will have a chance to ask questions about the report during sessions on Thursday. But at least one spoke on Tuesday and called the findings "eye-opening."

"We want an apology, we deserve an apology," said Andrea Jones, who had a senior in school during the shooting. "Overall, I felt it was fairly damning of the district."

"They were talking about him putting the bullets on the desk in class," Jones said. "I had been under the impression that it had been a brief second, not that they had sat on the desk the entire class."

Will the report be used in future litigation? Johnson said it's possible.

"Often large reports don’t usually go in," he said. "However, the fact that the folks who did the investigation, if we can show that they were experts in given fields, what they did and how they reviewed the evidence and what their opinions are, would be admissible."

In March, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge ruled that Oxford Community Schools employees cannot be sued civilly in the mass shooting from November 2021, based on governmental immunity. However, the lawsuits are on appeal.

"We’re going to do our best to get this law reversed, and if not, then we'll appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, thereafter," Johnson said.

You can read the full report online here.