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The family of Riley Franz, a student who was shot in the neck at Oxford High School last week, are suing the school district and school officials in Oxford, Michigan, claiming they were unsuccessful to prevent the mass shooting which killed four students and injured seven people, despite multiple warnings and signs of concern.
The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday by attorney Geoffrey Fieger, accuses school officials of rejecting violent threats – in the hours and days immediately before Ethan Crumbley’s shooting, but also two weeks earlier, when students and parents have raised concerns. A second $ 100 million lawsuit will also be filed in state court, Fieger said.
Riley Franz, 17, is in his final year of high school. Her 14-year-old sister Bella is in her first grade. The lawsuit says the two were together when Riley and other students were shot.
The girls had been in a bathroom and were shot as they walked out, “as if they were in a war zone,” Fieger said.
In the days that followed, both girls suffered from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as physical and / or emotional injuries, according to the lawsuit.
In the trial schedule, school officials were alerted to the potential for violence in mid-November, when “several concerned parents communicated” to Oxford principal Steven Wolf about threats against pupils on the media. social.
“I know this has been investigated, but my child does not feel safe at school,” a parent told Wolf on Nov. 16, according to the complaint. “He didn’t even want to go back to school today.
Responding to parents the same day the lawsuit said, Wolf wrote, “” I know I’m redundant here, but there is absolutely no threat to HS… big assumptions have been made from a few publications on the social networks, then the assumptions evolved into exaggerated rumors. “
After these exchanges, District Superintendent Timothy Throne used a loudspeaker at Oxford High School to deliver a message to students warning them to “stop disseminating information on social media and stop relying on information on social media, reiterating that there was no threat that presented a danger to students at Oxford High School, “the lawsuit said.
Days before the Nov. 30 attack, Crumbley “acted in a manner that would lead a reasonable observer to know and / or believe he planned to cause serious bodily harm,” the lawsuit says. He accuses school officials of increasing the danger to the students, of allowing Crumbley to stay in school, of repeatedly failing to inform the safety liaison officer of the school of Crumbley’s behavior and kick him out of a meeting with Crumbley’s parents.
In the days leading up to the shooting, according to the lawsuit, Crumbley “posted countdowns and threats of bodily harm, including death, on his social media accounts, warning of violent tendencies and the murderous ideology before coming to school with the handgun and ammunition to perpetuate the massacre. “
The day before the shooting, for example, Crumbley said on Twitter: “Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow Oxford.”
The lawsuit also notes that “Ethan Crumbley’s Instagram and other social media accounts were not set as private and were accessible to the public,” adding that his mother’s post about her son’s new weapon was also public.
In addition to the federal lawsuit, Fieger said Thursday he was preparing to file a similar lawsuit in state court, which will also seek $ 100 million.
Citing a high price tag in the lawsuit, he said, his aim is “to get people to do something” to prevent school shootings, claiming that a sense of moral responsibility has no effect. not prevalent since the Columbine shooting in 1999 in Colorado. Fieger also represented the family of a victim in that school shooting.
The defendants in the federal lawsuit include Throne and Wolf. He also targets two teachers, two counselors and a staff member, although he does not identify them by name.
Claiming that their “conduct was scandalous and shocks the conscience,” the lawsuit argues that officials should not be protected by government or qualified immunity.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning edition live blog.