OXFORD, Mich. (AP) — Administrators in a Michigan school district where four students were shot to death at its high school announced Tuesday that a zero tolerance policy toward threats was being adopted, as well as other initiatives aimed at improving safety.
The Oxford Community Schools Board of Education was told of the changes at its board meeting — two weeks after the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School that also wounded six students and a teacher.
“Anything that is remotely violent immediately goes to the administration and law enforcement,” said Jill Lemond, assistant superintendent of student services.
Students also will be removed from the school until a mental health evaluation has been completed.
Law enforcement also will be present in all district schools and a security firm has been hired to make sure every building has its own security guard. Backpacks will no longer be allowed in schools and the district is working with a vendor to provide clear backpacks, she added.
Ethan Crumbley, a 15-year-old Oxford High student, has been charged as an adult with murder and other crimes.
His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are charged in the case with involuntary manslaughter.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge granted a prosecutor more time to collect and share additional evidence against the parents, partly to give the Michigan community “time to heal” during the holiday season.
They’re accused of giving their son access to a gun and failing to intervene when they were confronted with his disturbing drawings a few hours before the Nov. 30 shooting.
School officials have been criticized by the county sheriff and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald for not alerting a school resource officer about their concerns with the teen and not searching his backpack before allowing him to return to class about three hours before the shooting at the school about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
Lori Bourgeau, 45, an Oxford Village councilwoman and parent of an 11th-grader, pointed a finger at the board and policies in place before the shooting.
“Who sets the example of where the complaints (about students) go?” Bourgeau said during public participation at Tuesday night’s meeting. “You let it stay with the counselor and the dean of students, only. Searching for ammo. Letters, pictures of shooting and there’s no disciplinary file? That’s not OK. Don’t let a kid come in and search for ammo and go back to class. You set the tone. I wish you would have done that a month ago. You could have saved lives.”
About a dozen of the 80 or so people attending the board meeting addressed its members.
Shane Gibson, 43, told the board that his daughter, who is in third grade, “asked me if she goes to school if she is going to die and it literally broke my heart.”
“The loss of innocence for these children is the most heartbreaking,” he said. “My son and my daughter will be living with this for the rest of their lives.”
Ethan Crumbley had a brief court hearing Monday and will return on Jan. 7 to allow his lawyer to review evidence.
His parents were arrested on Dec. 4 hiding in a commercial building in Detroit, hours after their charges were announced. They remain in jail, apparently unable to pay bonds of $500,000 each, though defense attorney Shannon Smith said she would ask for new terms on Jan. 7.
Judge Julie Nicholson granted a request by prosecutors and defense lawyers to postpone until Feb. 8 a key hearing that will determine whether the elder Crumbleys will face a trial, instead of plowing ahead on Dec. 22.
“These funerals have just recently concluded,” McDonald said. “The prosecutor’s office has a lot of work to do with a lot of the victims and the families. We do not think it’s in their best interest or in the interests of justice to do that during the holiday season.”
The prosecutor said that a delay in court proceedings would help her office prepare and also give Oxford “time to heal to the extent that’s possible.”
In court, the Crumbleys sat on the outside of their two lawyers. But when the lawyers got up to speak privately to the judge, James Crumbley mouthed “I love you” to his wife.
They are accused of failing to step in on the day of the tragedy despite being confronted with a drawing and chilling message — “blood everywhere” — that was found at the boy’s desk.
Oxford High School has been closed since the shooting. Athletes began returning to competition Monday.
Other schools in the Oxford district were closed Tuesday out of “an abundance of caution” after an online threat was directed at a middle school, officials said. The school will remain closed for the rest of the week, the district said in a Facebook post.
“Although law enforcement has cleared our K- 8, Bridges, and Crossroads school buildings for our safe reopening tomorrow, many in our community have expressed concern surrounding yesterday’s threat and do not feel ready to return,” the Facebook post said. “This has caused us to pause and consider the current needs and emotional well-being of our school community. Therefore, we have decided to close all district school buildings for the remainder of the week.”
Online threats against Michigan schools have occurred since the shooting and led to closings elsewhere as well as charges.
AP reporter Ed White in Detroit and News 8 contributed to this story.