Saying they can’t keep quiet anymore, two former Oxford school board members plan to make public information that they allege shows the district is lying to victims’ families and the public about its role in the mass shooting that left four students dead and seven others injured.
Specifically, the whistleblowers allege that Oxford school officials have led the community to believe that they did everything right but a bad thing still happened, when the facts show that the officials could have prevented the tragedy.
Those facts, the former board members maintain, have been withheld from the public. And they can’t keep quiet anymore, they say, stressing they want to share information that they previously were told they could not disclose.
‘They failed to take action to prevent it’
The whistleblowers are former school board President Tom Donnelly and Treasurer Korey Bailey — both of whom recently resigned out of frustration over the district’s handling of the shooting investigation.
“This has gone on long enough. I couldn’t take the Oxford stonewalling and lack of accountability any more,” Bailey said in a news release Sunday. “They never thought a school shooting would happen here and they failed to take action to prevent it.”
The former board members are coming forward nearly one year after the deadly Nov. 30 massacre at Oxford High School.
“I’m tired of being kicked in the teeth by people who just want to know the truth,” Donnelly said. “If Oxford Strong means anything, it has to be more than just enduring the pain. It has to include being able to handle the truth.”
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Tears flow as former board members tell families what they know
The whistleblowers met privately with victims’ families Sunday, and disclosed to them new information about “what should have been done that may well have prevented the shooting,” said attorney Bill Seikaly, who has been retained by the former board members.
“It was a difficult conversation for them to be engaged in, and I’m sure it was a difficult conversation to hear,” Seikaly said,
“It was reported to me that people left in tears. This is hard stuff. It was hard for Tom and Korey. It was hard for the families.”
According to Seikaly, the board members will share with the public what they shared with the school families at a news conference at 1 p.m. Monday.
Seikaly would not disclose who exactly had kept the school board members quiet, saying only: “There were people associated with the school district, though not directly, who kind of took over the messaging and convinced them of things that perhaps weren’t factual, (but) that they spread.”
Seikaly went on to say: “The people who show up at these tragedies are insurance companies. They take over things like messaging, loss prevention. They probably play a much larger role in all of these events.”
The whistleblowers’ allegations come one week after the resignation of Oxford School District Superintendent Ken Weaver, who cited health reasons for stepping down after less than a year on the job.
Since the Nov. 30 mass shooting, the school district has been hit with multiple civil suits. Victims and their families allege the school district failed to protect the students from a mass shooter who was allowed to return to class after exhibiting disturbing behavior in class on the day before and of the shooting.
The day before the shooting, Ethan Crumbley was caught researching bullets on his cell phone while in class. The day of the shooting, he had drawn a picture in his math homework of a gun, blood and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
Crumbley’s parents were summoned to the school, but they insisted he be returned to class, which he was. His backpack was never searched. Two hours later, he emerged from a bathroom and opened fire using a gun that his parents had bought him as an early Christmas present.
School district says it ‘strictly observed all legal duties’
The school district, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing and says it has been transparent and fully cooperative with authorities investigating the shooting.
“Defendants deny that they breached any duties and, further, deny that they were negligent in any manner,” Oxford schools attorney Timothy Mullins has previously stated, adding that school officials “strictly observed all legal duties and obligations” imposed by law.
Mullins also has maintained that all actions of the school district and its employees were “careful, prudent, proper and lawful.”
“I remain confident that the multiple investigations, lawsuits and the school board’s third-party review will bring all the facts to light and create the full transparency and accounting of events our community wants and deserves,” Weaver, the former superintendent, wrote in a September statement. “We remain focused on our mission of educating and supporting our kids.”
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Status of the Crumbley parents’ case
The parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, also have been charged for their alleged roles in the massacre. Prosecutors allege the couple ignored their son’s mental health problems, and rather than get him medical help, they bought him a gun.
The Cumbleys have denied responsibility for the shooting and face trial in January on involuntary manslaughter charges.
Donnelly and Bailey, meanwhile, have retained retired investigative reporter Jim Kiertzner to help them get their story out, and Seikaly to represent them through the public and legal process.
“People have known in their gut that there’s more to this,” Kiertzner said. “They will be getting more answers now from these two whistleblowers.”
Tresa Baldas: email@example.com