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Michigan school district defends actions surrounding deadly November shooting in face of two lawsuits

Two lawsuits were filed last month against the Oxford Community School District and its administrators in connection to the Nov. 30 shooting that killed four.
Image: Shooting At Oxford High School In Michigan Leaves 4 Students Dead
A memorial outside of Oxford High School continues to grow on Dec. 3, 2021 in Oxford, Mich. Four people were killed and seven injured in a Nov. 30 mass shooting at the school.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

Officials with the Michigan school district, where a mass shooting at Oxford High School left four dead and seven injured last year, are defending their actions in the face of two lawsuits.

Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne shared a letter to parents Tuesday, to clarify rumors and controversies surrounding the Nov. 30 shooting in suburban Detroit.

Though no charges have been filed against the school district or its leaders, two lawsuits seeking $100 million each were filed against the district, its superintendent, principal and others on Dec. 9. One suit alleges administrators knew suspect Ethan Crumbley was dangerous before the shooting and accuses the defendants of “gross negligence.

One lawsuit alleges that the school was aware of concerns raised over Crumbley's social media posts depicting "violent tendencies and ideations." He allegedly wrote in a post the day before the shooting, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow Oxford,” the lawsuit stated.

Throne said in Tuesday's statement the school district was unaware of Crumbley’s social media presence and related posts until after the Nov. 30 shooting. Throne addressed the discovery of a deer head at the school on Nov. 4, saying it was investigated and was “in no way related” to the Nov. 30 shooting suspect. 

He also addressed the head of a bird found in a jar in a student restroom at Oxford High School on Nov. 11. Throne said the incident was investigated by law enforcement, who determined there was no threat. 

“They were unable to determine when or how the jar was delivered. No threat or other content accompanied the strange act,” he said. 

Throne said that another person was responsible for the bird head, not Crumbley.

But, one of the lawsuits said Crumbley placed the head of the bird in the bathroom. Further, Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Marc Keast previously said Crumbley, “kept the severed head from a bird that he had tortured and mutilated in a jar in his room for six months."

Throne also said allegations about live ammunition found at the school are “completely false.”

The district has also been under heat for releasing Crumbley back to the class the day of the shooting after a teacher saw his drawing a gun and blood and school officials called his parents in for a meeting.

Throne said that meeting involved the suspect, the dean of students and a counselor, not other high school administrators.  

“Our students and staff should be proud. Our high school administration … ran toward the incident to effectively save children, administer aid to injured parties, and to locate the perpetrator, putting themselves in harm’s way. As an administrative team, we are extremely proud of their brave efforts that day,” Throne said.

Throne also said the district will respond in detail to “false allegations and reckless statements" made by attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed both suits against the district on behalf of a student who was shot in the Nov. 30 tragedy and her sister who witnessed it unfold. Fieger did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

As controversy over the tragic shooting that scarred the community continues, students at Oxford High School are expected to return to their building for classes for the first time starting Monday.

Shooting suspect Crumbley, a 15-year-old sophomore at the school, was arrested and charged as an adult with murder, terrorism and other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty.

Charges were also announced against his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who were arrested after a following a manhunt. They were charged with involuntary manslaughter and pleaded not guilty.