Oxford school shooting: Whistleblowers say district failed to implement its threat assessment policy

(OXFORD, Mich.) — Two resigned Oxford, Michigan, school board members claim the district failed to implement its threat assessment playbook that they say could’ve prevented last year’s mass shooting at Oxford High School.

“This board had been told over and over that the school had all the policies in place and that our team did everything right,” former school board treasurer Korey Bailey said — but he claims that’s not true.

The whistleblowers’ Monday news conference came just two days before the one-year anniversary of the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting that was carried out by a student and left four students dead and several injured.

Former school board president Tom Donnelly said, in August, Bailey started looking into the threat assessment policies and guidelines, and he came across a Homeland Security protocol referenced in their policies.

Donnelly said this document “changed everything from my perspective.”

The document showed the playbook for preventing school violence, which “clearly defines every step” of identifying and preventing threats, Bailey said at the news conference. The playbook was most recently updated in June 2021, just months before the shooting, he said.

Donnelly said the protocol is to address a threat preemptively, and assumes that trained counselors, resource officers and other staffers collect “markers” to help stop an incident before it happens. “Markers” include: changes in grades, changes in attendance, and students showing violent tendencies, Donnelly said.

The document “clearly states that the threshold for pulling a team together [to investigate] should be low,” Donnelly said. “It’s the team’s job to decide whether you have a low or a medium or a high-risk factor.”

“The district certainly didn’t use [the playbook] as designed in the months leading up to the shooting,” Donnelly said. “There’s no evidence that we’ve ever used it as designed — even though, since 2011, the policies and guidelines have been in our system.”

Bailey said a report completed by Secure Education Consultants “praised our team” for developing and executing comprehensive security protocols. But Bailey said this report “was not based on a complete investigation — it only focused on if we had the policies. It never touched on if we ever implemented or trained people to carry out these policies.”

Bailey said he later learned no schools put this playbook into practice. He said he learned that those responsible for safety had raised concerns over the lack of training, and those concerns were ignored.

“Oxford neglected to train,” Bailey said, and “the results were fatal.”

Donnelly said district counsel disagreed with his and Bailey’s assessment.

“I couldn’t in good conscience stay on the board,” Donnelly said.

“Our options became clear that we could either … go along and stay silent, or we could move along and be a voice for change,” Bailey added. “Remaining silent was not being honest or transparent.”

Days before the 2021 shooting, a teacher allegedly saw 15-year-old shooter Ethan Crumbley researching ammunition in class; school officials contacted his parents but they didn’t respond, according to prosecutors. His mother texted her son, writing, “lol, I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught,” according to prosecutors.

Bailey said, if the school “actually trained on threat assessment, the situation would’ve ended” there.

Hours before the shooting, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on Crumbley’s desk that was “a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, ‘The thoughts won’t stop, help me.’ In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet, ‘Blood everywhere."”

Crumbley’s parents were called to the school over the incident and said they’d get their son counseling, but they did not take him home.

Crumbley pleaded guilty last month to all charges against him, including terrorism and murder. The teen’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly making the gun accessible and failing to recognize warning signs about their son before the shooting. They have pleaded not guilty.

Secure Education Consultants said in a statement to ABC News that it “conducted a safety and security assessment” after the shooting at the request of the school district.

“Our role was not to review the shooting but to assess the district’s facilities, technology, policies, procedures and training protocols through the lens of evaluating and enhancing security,” the statement said. “As part of our assessment, we recommended ways the district could improve its overall security through investments in detection and alarm devices, strengthened communications and increased security presence. We also recommended and provided trainings to district staff.”

The Oxford school district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

ABC News’ Alex Faul contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.