DETROIT – The morning Ethan Crumbley drew a picture of a gun and blood on his math homework sheet, and scrawled the words "The thoughts won't stop, help me," he should have been sent home under the Oxford school district's own threat assessment policy – only it was never used and no one was ever trained for it, two whistleblowers allege.
Instead, they say, school officials caved to the parents' demands that their son be returned to class that morning – when they had the power and authority to remove him – and bloodshed followed: The teenager shot and killed four classmates and injured seven others at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan.
According to the whistleblowers, it was the second time in 24 hours that school officials mishandled Crumbley, alleging the teen also should have been sent home on the day before the shooting, when he was caught researching bullets on his cellphone in class. Under the district's policy, they say, such activity is grounds for removal.
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But the policy was ignored that day, too, they allege, stressing the district has thus far tried to keep this information secret.
And they can't take it anymore.
Nearly one year after the deadly Oxford school shooting, two former school board members are speaking out about what they allege are key missteps by the district before Crumbley carried out the Nov. 30 shooting using a gun his parents bought him as an early Christmas present.
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Crumbley pleaded guilty to all counts last month and faces up to life in prison, with no chance for parole.
The whistleblowers are former school board President Tom Donnelly and Treasurer Korey Bailey – both of whom resigned two months ago out of frustration over the district's handling of the shooting investigation.
They allege the shooting was preventable had the district followed its own playbook that has not previously been divulged to the public. They maintain that Oxford school officials have led the community to believe that they did everything right and that a bad thing still happened, when the facts – they allege – show that the officials could have prevented the tragedy.
Shooter took behavioral-risk survey twice
And the district is yet to reveal other crucial details, they allege, including how it handled the results of a behavioral-risk survey that Crumbley took as a freshman, and again as a sophomore. Just months before the mass shooting, Crumbley took the so-called SAEBRS survey, which helps educators identify social-emotional and behavioral problems in students.
The district has not disclosed how those results were handled, what they showed and whether Crumbley's scores raised red flags, say the whistleblowers, who are still demanding those answers.
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Bailey and Donnely first disclosed their allegations on Sunday in a private meeting with the victims' families before going public with them at a news conference on Monday. The district faces several lawsuits from the families.
According to the whistleblowers, the Oxford school district has had a threat assessment policy on the books since 2014, only it has never been implemented.
On its website, the school district lists a threat assessment policy that is modeled after a U.S. Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security guide for preventing school violence.
Threat assessment team was too small, whistleblowers say
According to courtroom testimony, hours before the Nov. 30 mass shooting, the threat assessment team was much smaller than what the policy called for.
Two school officials met with Ethan Crumbley after his violent drawing was discovered by a math teacher. They were Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak and school counselor Shawn Hopkins, who were temporarily put on leave following the shooting, but have since been reinstated.
According to prosecutors, the counselor and dean of students met with Crumbley and his parents to discuss the violent drawing he made just hours before the shooting. They say Crumbley convinced both school officials that the drawing was for a video game. The officials requested that Crumbley go home, but his parents refused – so the school officials allowed him to return to class.
In the end, it was the counselor and dean of students who made the call to keep him at school.
As former Superintendent Tim Thorne noted to parents in a letter: "These incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the principal or assistant principal’s office."
Following the shooting, Ejak and Hopkins were placed on leave and have since been reinstated.
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At issue for the whistleblowers is why wasn't a bigger threat assessment team formed, as required by the district's policy.
The board members have retained attorney Bill Seikaly to represent them in their whistleblowing activities, which come one week after Oxford Superintendent Ken Weaver resigned citing health concerns.
Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan school shooter should've been sent home, but policy ignored