Oxford High School Shooting Case Raises Questions on Parents’ Responsibilities

Thomas Daniels, Editor in Chief

Graphic by Zainab Rentia.

On November 30, 2021, shots rang through the halls of Oxford High School, and when the smoke cleared, four died and seven students were wounded. The court charged the 15-year-old shooter with four counts of first-degree murder, and one count of terrorism. The parents of the shooter were charged with involuntary manslaughter. This shooting is one of the 32 that have been reported by Education Week this year, and it is the deadliest since 2018. 

The indictment of the parents is rare; only four other times have the parents been charged in similar cases, and these charges can lead to up to 15 years in prison. The prosecution would need to prove that the parents were so negligible that it directly caused the death of the four students. As the Washington Post summarizes, “to prove gross negligence, a prosecutor must show: (1) Knowledge of a situation requiring the exercise of ordinary care and diligence to avert injury to another. (2) Ability to avoid the resulting harm by ordinary care and diligence… (3) The omission to use such care and diligence to avert the threatened danger.” 

One of the essential pieces of evidence that the prosecution can use is a text sent by the mother of the shooter, who sent this text to her son after a teacher caught him searching online for ammunition, saying, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” Accusations that the parents allowed full access to their weapons to the shooter can also bolster the prosecution’s case. However, the defense holds firm that the parents did not allow their son access to the weapons, and had no knowledge that their child had intent to harm others. They have pleaded not guilty. 

Because of the rarity of the charges, there is little to no precedent to follow. The four other times parents have been charged, were not negligence-related violations. But, even if the parents are not convicted of involuntary manslaughter, this trial can set future standards on how parents of shooters are tried. 

A third-party investigation of the shooting approved by the Oakland, Michigan district is taking place; meanwhile, an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General will simultaneously occur even at the district’s disapproval. 

As schools return from the COVID-19 lockdown last year, school shootings have also started to climb, not only in Michigan but all over the country. 

In Virginia, there was a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport that left two wounded, a student was struck in the head while the other was in the leg. Locally, at a Freedom High School football game, two people got hit by rogue bullets from two feuding groups. The most recent shooting, on December 14, killed a teenage boy in the student parking lot after a Menchville High School basketball game in Newport News, Virginia.