(OXFORD, Mich.) — Parents and students called for greater safety measures and transparency at the Michigan high school where four students were fatally shot in a mass shooting last year.
Nearly five months after the massacre at Oxford High School, a group of concerned parents and students said that those who attend the suburban Detroit school still do not feel safe.
“Our children tell us they do not feel safe at school,” Lori Bourgeau, a parent of an Oxford student, said Thursday during a press briefing organized by the group Change 4 Oxford. “They don’t feel safe using the restroom, they don’t feel safe eating in the lunchroom.”
The group is calling for an immediate independent expert review of Oxford’s student safety procedures, with an updated school safety plan based on the review implemented prior to the start of the 2022-2023 school year. It is also calling for greater transparency into the school’s safety plan and to include students and teachers in the process.
Those who spoke during the emotional event said they have felt like their questions and concerns have not been addressed by the school.
“Just let the students talk,” Jeff Jones, the parent of two students at Oxford Community Schools, said during the briefing. “Ask the students what they need. Ask the students what would make them feel safe.”
His son, Oxford junior Griffen Jones, charged that new safety measures including clear backpacks and checking IDs at the school’s entrance “have done almost nothing.” He spoke about what it’s been like to be in school in the wake of the deadly shooting.
“Every day I pray that whatever conversation I have with my friends or anyone else isn’t my last with them or my last conversation ever,” he said. “Every day I pray that I won’t die on the high school floor because of the lack of caring they have shown towards me and my friends, the whole student body and teachers.”
“I hate waking up certain days because of the anxiety and stress and lack of safety and the thought gets to me sometimes in class and I can’t focus,” he said. “I don’t care about school half the time because most of the time I’m concerned for my safety, my teachers’ safety and my friends.”
Speakers were critical of school officials’ decision last year to decline Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s offer to lead an independent review. Nessel will be speaking with the community on Monday, the group said.
Parents also questioned the district’s decision not to go on lockdown after the high school received several threats on Friday.
In response to the group’s demands and concerns, Superintendent Ken Weaver said in a statement that the “physical safety and emotional well-being of our students and staff remains our top priority.”
“We value all parent and student input and continue to work with our students and parents through these difficult times,” he said.
Following the shooting, Weaver said the district has engaged with the community through meetings, phone calls, town halls, forums and surveys.
“Input from our students, staff and families has helped shape and drive our successful return to school plan and our school safety plans,” he said. “We have also consulted with mental health experts, security experts and local law enforcement in developing our plans.”
Four students were killed in the shooting on Nov. 30, 2021. Seven people, including a teacher, were also injured.
Prosecutors allege that the gunman emerged from a bathroom with a gun and started shooting in a hallway. The suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, allegedly opened fire on students and staff just hours after meeting with school counselors over disturbing drawings depicting a gun, prosecutors said.
A lawsuit alleges that the district failed to heed warning signs before the shooting, which the district has denied.
In the weeks following the shooting, the district announced a zero-tolerance policy toward threats, and that students would be removed from the school until a mental health evaluation could be completed. The district’s board of education also approved a resolution to initiate a third-party review of what happened before, during and after the shooting.
The district held a safety meeting with local first responders and government agencies to review safety procedures and protocols in February. Officials reported that student feedback on the clear backpacks “has been positive,” and that they are considering continuing using them next school year.
Officials also said they plan to create parent forums “to provide an avenue to share concerns and ideas.”
In a letter to the school community on the district’s response to Friday’s threats, Weaver said they did not want to “put students and staff through any unnecessary psychological trauma by going into a lockdown when it is not warranted.”
“I understand the importance to share as much information as possible with our school community during this time of healing,” he said.
Crumbley, who was charged as an adult, faces 24 counts, including four first-degree murder counts. Last month, his lawyer told the court that a psychiatric evaluation of the teenager has been completed and a written report of the results is expected to be available in 45 days. He plans to plead insanity, according to court filings.
Crumbley has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail. A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for April 21.
His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have also been charged with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly neglecting or failing to notice warning signs about their son in the months before the shooting. They also allegedly bought their son a 9-mm Sig Sauer pistol as a present just days before he allegedly used it in the shooting.
The Crumbleys have pleaded not guilty to the charges. They are due back in court on April 19 for a pretrial hearing.
ABC News’ Will McDuffie and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.
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