2 Michigan school staffers put on paid leave after meeting with teen before shooting: report

On November 30, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at Oxford High School in the Detroit exurb of Oxford Township, Michigan, United States. Four students were killed and seven people were injured, including a teacher. Authorities arrested and charged 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley as an adult for 24 crimes, including murder and terrorism.

Crumbley's parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were charged on December 3 with involuntary manslaughter for failing to secure the handgun used in the shooting.[7] After failing to appear for their arraignment, the parents were the subjects of a manhunt by the U.S. Marshals; they were caught and arrested in Detroit on December 4. Lawsuits were filed against the school district, Oxford Community Schools, starting on December 9; they allege negligence by school officials towards warning signs exhibited by Crumbley leading up to the shooting.
Officials raise questions about whether Oxford High School officials missed a critical opportunity to squelch the violent rampage that followed. Instead of calling law enforcement or removing the boy from school, officials allowed him to return to class.

Published 12:24 a.m. ET July 14, 2022

Updated 12:55.p.m. ET July 14, 2022

Two Oxford High School staffers who met with suspected teen shooter Ethan Crumbley hours before he allegedly opened fire inside the school, killing four students and injuring seven others, were placed on a paid leave one week after the incident, according to emails obtained by The Detroit News.

Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak and school counselor Shawn Hopkins were informed in writing by David Pass, assistant superintendent of human resources at Oxford Community Schools, that each would be placed on paid non-disciplinary administrative leave on Dec. 7. School was suspended after the Nov. 30 and restarted on Jan. 10 at the middle school.

"The District experienced a tragic event on Nov. 30, 2021 that resulted in the deaths of 4 student and injuries to 7 others. You were involved with a meeting with the student and his parents and the assessment of the student on Nov. 30, 2021," the email states to Ejak.

Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins was one of two school administrators who were placed on paid leave one week after the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting that killed four students and injured seven. Hopkins met with suspected teen shooter Ethan Crumbley hours before the teen allegedly opened fire inside the school.

"Given the severity of the situation, personal threats and well being, and the ongoing internal and external investigation, you are placed on non-disciplinary non-duty leave of absence effective immediately. You will be notified upon conclusion of the investigation," Pass wrote.

Ejak and Hopkins are the first known Oxford high school staffers to be placed on leave in the wake of the shooting. It was not clear if they have been cleared or returned to school.

District spokeswoman Danielle Stablinksy said Ejak and Hopkins were the only two employees placed on leave since the attack and they remain employed by the district. They are no longer part of the district's public online employee listing.

Following the summer break, Hopkins will be working at Oxford Bridges High School and Ejak will be working at Oxford Crossroads Day School, attorney Tim Mullins, whose firm represents the men and the district in multiple civil lawsuits connected to the shooting, said Wednesday.

No one has resigned or been fired in the wake of the shooting at the district. Then-Superintendent Tim Throne retired and new superintendent Ken Weaver, who came to the high school the day of the shooting, took over the district in March.

Ethan's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, had been called to the school the morning of Nov. 30 because of teachers’ concerns about their son’s behavior, including watching violent videos, searching for ammunition on his phone, and scrawling disturbing drawings and words on his math homework.

Crumbley explained to officials he did not pose a threat to himself or others, shot guns as a hobby and the drawing was for a video game he was creating. Unconvinced school officials asked the teen’s parents to remove him from school and seek mental health counseling for their son. The couple refused, saying they had to work that day and Crumbley was handed his backpack and allowed to return to class.

Less than two hours later, investigators said he pulled a handgun his parents had purchased for him earlier in the month from his backpack, exited a restroom and began shooting.

What the emails detail

On Dec. 4, Pass sent Ejak an email requesting a meeting on Dec. 6 and writing: “I would like to discuss additional details regarding your interactions with the suspect and next steps from here.”

Ejak asked Pass on Dec. 6 if he needed representation at the meeting. Pass replied that Jim Gibbons, head of the teacher's union, would be present.

"This is not a disciplinary meeting. If you want other representation, let me know, but I don't think it's necessary," Pass wrote.

Hopkins received an identical letter except it was stated that he met with Crumbley on Nov. 29 and a Nov. 30 meeting with the teen and his parents. Hopkins was told by Pass that his non-disciplinary non-duty leave of absence "was the best course of action," according to a Dec. 7 email.

Gibbons, president of the Oxford Education Association, declined to comment on the meeting, saying it was a personnel matter.

Attorneys for Ejak and Hopkins didn't respond to a request for comment. A message left with Hopkins was not returned.

Wolfgang Mueller, an attorney who represents the families of two Oxford High victims in separate civil federal lawsuits, said he was unaware of the move by the district to put two officials on leave.

Attorney Wolfgang Mueller, right, announces on June 8 a federal civil lawsuit by Madisyn Baldwin's mother Nicole Beausoleil against the Oxford school district and certain school officials in the Nov. 30 shooting death of Madisyn.

"I don’t know if anyone can jump to any conclusions because of that," Mueller said of the decision. "What I would say is I haven't heard of that type of move in a school shooting case, but it is typical in police shooting cases where they take an officer off on leave pending an investigation."

Officials named in civil suits

Mueller represents Sandra Cunningham — whose daughter, Oxford High freshman Phoebe Arthur, survived gunshot wounds to her neck and cheek —and the family of Madisyn Baldwin, 17, one of the slain students, who filed a wrongful death complaint.

Ejak and Hopkins are named as defendants in Mueller's cases and in multiple civil lawsuits that were filed against the district and other school officials by families of the dead, wounded and others.

In one lawsuit, the two, along with former superintendent Throne, are accused of creating a dangerous environment, including placing Crumbley back into the school population following a meeting with his parents in a counselor’s office.

The same lawsuit said Ejak had to notice the backpack seemed unusually heavy — now believed because of the handgun and 48 rounds of ammunition inside it. For unknown reasons, officials — despite suspecting Crumbley displayed suicidal thoughts — “deliberately chose not search” the backpack, according to the complaint, and his parents never told anyone of the existence of the handgun.

According to a third lawsuit, on Nov. 29, the day before the shooting, Hopkins met with Crumbley after the teen's Spanish teacher noted he had been using his cell phone during class to search information about bullets, the suit stated.

But no action was taken beyond a staffer leaving a voicemail for his mother, the same day Crumbley tweeted: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow Oxford."

Early the next morning, an English teacher emailed Hopkins about Crumbley viewing a violent shooting video on his phone during class, and another instructor told Ejak the then-15-year-old "drew extremely disturbing pictures and words on his math assignment," the lawsuit said.

The American flag flies at half-staff on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021 outside of Oxford High School. Oxford Dean of Students Nicholas Ejak and school counselor Shawn Hopkins were informed in writing by David Pass, assistant superintendent of human resources at Oxford Community Schools, that each would be placed on paid non-disciplinary administrative leave on Dec. 7, according to district emails obtained by The Detroit News.

It showed "a handgun with gunshot wounds to the torso and blood coming from the victim’s mouth. A bullet was drawn under the words, “Blood everywhere.” A crying face emoji was on the paper with the words, 'The thoughts won’t stop. Help me' and 'My life is useless.' "

What counselor said in court

Hopkins testified at a Feb. 24 court hearing for Crumbley's parents, saying that hours before the shooting a "sad" Ethan had confided that his family dog had died, he'd lost a grandparent, his friend moved away and the COVID-19 pandemic had been "tough for him."

Hopkins testified he called Ethan down to the office to talk about the distressing drawing. The counselor said Ethan first said he was drawing a video game, but Hopkins pressed him over a phrase also scribbled on the paper: "My life is useless."

"I wanted to ask 'what does that mean? This does not sound like a video game,'" he said. "His demeanor then changed. He became sad. He started to pause more in his speech."

Hopkins testified that he called the parents to the school on Nov. 30. When they arrived, they "weren't friendly or showing care," he said.

Before the parents arrived, Hopkins said he tried to engage Ethan, inquiring about his plans after high school. Ethan told him: “I know this looks bad, but I’m not going to do anything," Hopkins testified.

The school counselor stressed to the court that he'd "determined there was enough suicidal ideation that I called his home." But he did not believe the teen was "actively suicidal" nor did he believe Ethan was a threat.

Hopkins noted Ethan was one of 400 students in his caseload, spanning three grades.

Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed.


July 16, 2022 at 7:18 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

Detroit staffers put on leave

This is a very difficult situation, surely one every teacher worries about. In hindsight, one can ask why, if staff worried about the student being suicidal, they didn't search his backpack, but I think 99% of the responsibility rests with parents who

1) bought him a gun

2) refused to take him home.

July 19, 2022 at 3:46 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

E. D. Hirsch & a universal curriculum

Here's a link that will get you into execrable piece praising E.D. Hirsch's new book:

The piece provoked me to read the ugly book. In it he sas, starting in kindergarten, public schools MUST have universal curriculum--AND he has the list of required curriculum should be constructed by state governors & legislators.

July 22, 2022 at 7:33 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

Washington Post Publishes my Letter

Check out this gift article, at no cost to you:

July 25, 2022 at 8:47 AM

By: Susan Ohanian

Chicago Tribune Letter Supports School Libraries

I have been a librarian in Chicago Public Schools for 12 years now, nine at Nixon Elementary in the Hermosa neighborhood. In this time, I have witnessed the total decimation of the school district’s library program. It’s become a first-person story as I was recently laid off due to “budget cuts.”

I am not alone. Seven other librarians were laid off in this latest round of cuts. Of the 513 district-run schools in Chicago, there are roughly 80 librarians left. Once you close the librarian position, the library tends to remain unused and empty. Nixon has a beautiful library and science, technology, engineering and mathematics lab that I spent nine years building from scratch by fundraising over $200,000, mostly through grant writing. Our library is a welcoming, colorful and modern space that students love visiting.

Librarians do more than just check out books to students. We teach critical thinking, research and technology skills. School libraries offer an abundance of rich, culturally relevant books that speak to students’ interests and passions. Nixon’s library has almost 15,000 books, the majority of which were published in the last five years.

We can turn the school library and librarian crisis around at CPS, but to do that, we have to start somewhere.

First, CPS can restore the eight lost librarian positions and begin hiring librarians to staff empty libraries. There are many! CPS should also fund librarian positions like they do social workers and nurses and counselors — at the district level. Our funding model, student-based budgeting, needs to end. We must come up with more equitable and sustainable ways to fund schools.

Parents often falsely assume every school has a librarian. Parents and Local School Council members should ask principals if a librarian is on staff, and if not, why?

Mayor Lori Lightfoot should keep her promise. Among her campaign pledges as a candidate was a librarian, social worker and nurse at every school. The number of librarians has actually gone down in her time as mayor — from roughly 120 when she began to about 80 now.

The money is there thanks to COVID-19 relief funds — money that was doled out to avoid mass layoffs. Yet CPS is sitting on millions of dollars for a rainy day.

It is pouring. Let’s begin working on this problem.

— Leslie Westerberg, Chicago

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