On Tuesday, November 30, a 15-year-old boy allegedly used a firearm belonging to his father to open fire on classmates, killing four students. The morning of the attack, school administrators met with the boy’s parents and showed them disturbing notes found that day indicating the boy was willing to do harm to himself and others. The boy also was caught searching for ammo on his phone just days before the shooting.
But, rather than disciplining the child, the school simply gave the parents the option of pulling him out of class or leaving him in school following a meeting with school officials.
The description of events seems to be in line with the school’s ‘restorative’ policy which uses principles based on a controversial disciplinarian approach called “restorative justice” that has been blamed for allowing other school shootings to happen.
According to Fox 29, the following events took place the morning of November 30:
…a teacher found a note on [the alleged shooter’s] desk that read the following: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with words: “Blood everywhere” and a person who appeared to have been shot and bleeding.
The note also read “my life is useless” and “the world is dead”.
The result of that note was a meeting with parents, school officials, and [the alleged shooter’s] that morning. The counselor took the drawings, but most of the context above was scratched out.
Accordingly, “on the meeting, the [parents] were shown the drawing and advised to get their son into counseling within 24 hours. The prosecutor said they did not ask [him] if he had his gun – which was in his backpack in this meeting.”
According to an “Oxford Community Schools Code of Conduct” pdf released in June 2020, the school prefers to keep students in school and offer discipline through a series of counseling and other measures:
This document intentionally proposes an approach to school discipline that gives preference to keeping students in school where they can receive the academic and social-emotional supports they need. It includes recommended responsibilities of each school community member, and it lists the proactive steps of positive behavior supports and restorative practices available before articulating the school community’s consequences for disruptive conduct.
Also, according to that document, the boy’s drawings indicating violence should have risen to the level of harassment:
A student will not engage in or participate in any behavior that is included in the definition of harassment or intimidation. “Harassment or intimidation” means any gesture or written, verbal, or physical act that a reasonable person, under the circumstances, should know will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student’s property, placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or damage to the student’s property, or that has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to disrupt or interfere with the school’s educational mission or the education of any student. Harassment or intimidation includes, but is not limited to, a gesture or written, verbal, or physical act.
However, the document notes that depending on the kind of harassment, the penalty may be anywhere from a meeting with the parents to an expulsion. If it is found to be a “level one” infraction based on the handbook, then school officials are instructed to use the following two-step approach:
STEP 1: RESTORATIVE PRACTICE To foster each student’s academic success and pro-social development, the school will consider research-based social and emotional learning strategies and options designed to promote positive behavior and modify negative behavior while holding students accountable and minimizing exclusion time…
STEP 2: ADMINISTRATIVE CONFERENCE WITH STUDENT AND PARENT An administrative conference with student and parent will usually occur subsequent to the preliminary corrective measures described in Step 1, and may include a review of suspension/expulsion procedures.
Had the boy been sent home that day instead of using this guideline with an emphasis on keeping troubled students in school, then the shooting may not have happened.
Similar disciplinarian techniques were used at Marjory Stone-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After learning about the “restorative” practices which allowed a school shooter to carry out an attack that killed a daughter and dozens of others, Parkland father Andrew Pollack has made it his life’s mission to educate parents and root out these dangerous practices.
In a 2019 op-ed, Pollack warned that school policies aimed at ending the so-called “‘school-to-prison pipeline ‘by decreasing suspensions, expulsions and arrests” were introduced by the Obama administration and were the “politically correct thing to do.”
But, he warned that despite President Trump repealing policies focusing on restorative justice, “they aren’t going anywhere at the local level unless parents take action. If teachers tell you that these policies are causing problems, talk to your school board members and push back against them. The only way to keep kids safe at school is for parents to get informed, get involved and fix it.”
The Oxford Code of Conduct manual notes that similar practices are used for expelled students seeking a return to school:
The local school board may include conditions in a petition for reinstatement, including the successful completion of a restorative justice process or a similar effort, which the student can complete during the exclusion period or as a condition for returning to school.
As of press time, it is unclear whether or not the suspect had any prior discipline issues in school other than the ones mentioned in this article.