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Parents of sisters killed in Oxford school shooting file 2 $100 million lawsuits

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Last week's school shooting at Oxford High in Michigan affected the lives of all its students. Today the parents of two sisters filed a pair of $100 million lawsuits in federal court against the school district. As Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET reports, the suits blame teachers, administrators and counselors for endangering students' lives.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: The plaintiffs in the civil case are Jeffrey and Brandi Franz, parents of two teenage girls at the school, one who was shot in the neck during the rampage. The lawsuits claim that school officials acted in reckless disregard for the victims' safety. The day before the shooting, school officials had noticed that Ethan Crumbley, who's been charged with multiple crimes, was looking up ammunition on a cellphone. Just before the shooting, they found him with a drawing depicting guns, bullets and phrases like, blood everywhere. At a meeting with school officials, his parents refused to take him home from school that day. Franz's attorney Geoffrey Fieger says the school should have done much more.

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GEOFFREY FIEGER: The counselors and teachers, the school administrators who failed these students at Oxford High School at virtually every turn therefore violated the civil rights of the Oxford High School students who were injured and killed during the slaughter.

KLINEFELTER: But some school advocacy groups say now is not the time for a lawsuit and call it ill-advised. They note that officials involved have also been traumatized by the shooting and are in the midst of trying to heal the community. In addition, multiple investigations, including a criminal one, are still underway. Legal experts say civil lawsuits like this one can be difficult because courts often rule schools are covered by governmental immunity. These are the first known civil suits in connection with the shooting. George Washington University law professor Catherine J. Ross says the Oxford shootings may open new avenues for civil litigation.

CATHERINE J ROSS: Unlike a lot of the incidents where schools have only a few seconds to figure out what to do because the shooting has already started, this school had 90 minutes before the parents even arrived to think this through. So we could expect them to do a fuller investigation given that they were so concerned, they said they had to see a counselor.

KLINEFELTER: Some school districts have settled with those involved in shootings. The Parkland Florida district recently reached a $25 million settlement with the families of more than 50 people affected by a school shooting there in 2018. In Oxford, much of the continuing investigation will focus on the warning signs and how school administrators reacted to them. For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter in Detroit.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAURA MARLING SONG, "SOOTHING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.