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Claireification: Trial in Michigan may change responsibility in school shootings

An ongoing trial in Michigan may redefine responsibility in school shootings across America. Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life in prison for murdering and injuring his classmates at Oxford High School in Detroit. Now, Ethan’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, face trials of their own over their son’s behaviors. 

The Crumbley parents face up to 15 years in prison, according to CNN. Both of them are pleading not guilty to four charges of involuntary manslaughter. As Ethan’s parents, the prosecution alleges they had an alleged role in their son’s crime. 

The shooting at Oxford High School happened Nov. 30, 2021, and Ethan was only 15 years old. The case alleges his parents knew of Ethan’s disposition and gave him access to firearms. Social media have played a large part in revealing these details, including father-son trips to the gun range, firearms left freely accessible and ignored warnings regarding Ethan’s mental health. 

The two were even called into the school the day of the shooting after a suspicious drawing was recovered by a teacher. His parents declined to take Ethan out of school or inform staff about his access to guns. When the two found out about a school shooting at Ethan’s high school, Jennifer even texted Ethan, “Don’t do it.” 

The prosecution alleges this collection of evidence proves James and Jennifer’s negligence, which means they are directly responsible for the events at Oxford High School. 

This isn’t the first time parents have been charged for their child’s actions; in the past, this has looked like child neglect charges or failure to lock up firearms. This case is historic as it would mean the Crumbley parents are responsible for the killings themselves, in addition to Ethan.

A motion was filed to hold separate trials for Jennifer and James in November, which was approved. Jame’s trial is tentatively set to begin March 5 and the Detroit Free Press reports Jennifer’s trial is in its fifth day of testimony. Jennifer’s extramarital affairs have even been brought up in the courtroom as her lawyers search for a defense against the hard evidence from the prosecution. 

It seems as though Ethan will not have much influence on either of his parents’ trials. NBC News reports Ethan’s lawyers are not encouraging him to testify, partially due to his ongoing appeal. 

The results of this trial could set a new precedent and change the way parents in America are held accountable for school shootings. It is unclear when we will know the outcomes of this trial, but it’s worth keeping our eyes on Detroit for the time being. 

Claire Schiopota is a senior studying journalism. Please note that the opinions expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want Claire to cover a certain topic or talk about her column? Email her at or tweet her @CSchiopota.

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