Two Oxford employees were placed on paid leave after school shooting, emails show

Updated 2 years ago on September 23, 2022

Two Oxford High School employees who met with shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley hours before he opened fire at the school, killing four students and wounding seven others, were placed on paid leave a week after the incident, according to emails obtained by The Detroit News.

Dean of Faculty Nicholas Edjak and school psychologist Sean Hopkins were notified in writing by David Pass, assistant superintendent of human resources at Oxford Community Schools, that they would each be placed on paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave on December 7. Classes at the high school were suspended after Nov. 30 and resumed on Jan. 10.

"On Nov. 30, 2021, there was a tragic incident in the district that left 4 students dead and 7 others injured. You participated in a meeting with the student and his parents and in the evaluation of the student on Nov. 30, 2021," the letter sent to Edjak said.

"Given the seriousness of the situation, the threats to your personal life and well-being, and the ongoing internal and external investigations, you are immediately placed on non-disciplinary leave without pay. You will be notified upon completion of the investigation," Pass wrote.

Edjack and Hopkins are the first known employees of Oxford High School to be placed on leave in connection with the shooting. It is unclear whether they were released or returned to school.

County spokeswoman Danielle Stublinksy said Ejak and Hopkins were the only two employees put on leave after the attack, and they still work for the county. They are no longer listed on the county's public online employee list.

After the summer break, Hopkins will work at Oxford Bridges High School and Ejak will work at Oxford Crossroads Day School, attorney Tim Mullins, whose firm represents the men and the district in numerous civil lawsuits related to the shooting, said Wednesday.

No one resigned or was fired in connection with the district shooting. Then-Superintendent Tim Throne resigned, and new Superintendent Ken Weaver, who joined the high school the day of the shooting, took over the district in March.

Ethan's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were called to school on the morning of Nov. 30 because teachers were concerned about their son's behavior, including watching violent videos, searching for ammunition on his phone and writing disturbing drawings and words on his math homework.

Crumbley explained to officials that he was not a threat to himself or others, shot guns as a hobby, and the drawing was for a video game he was creating. Unconvinced school officials asked the teen's parents to remove him from school and seek mental health counseling. The couple refused, saying they had work to do that day, so Crumbley was given his backpack and allowed to return to class.

Less than two hours later, according to investigators, he pulled a gun that his parents had bought for him earlier in the month out of his backpack, came out of the bathroom and started shooting.

What the emails are about

On Dec. 4, Pass sent an email to Edjak requesting a Dec. 6 meeting and wrote, "I would like to discuss further details regarding your interaction with the suspect and next steps."

On December 6, Edjack asked Pass if he needed representation at the meeting. Pass replied that Jim Gibbons, head of the teachers' union, would attend.

"This is not a disciplinary meeting. If you need other representatives, let me know, but I don't think it's necessary," Pass wrote.

Hopkins received an identical email, except that it referred to a Nov. 29 meeting with Crumbley and a Nov. 30 meeting with the teenager and his parents. Pass told Hopkins that his non-disciplinary, non-custodial leave of absence "was the best course of action," according to the Dec. 7 email.

Gibbons, president of the Oxford Education Association, declined to comment on the meeting, saying it was a personnel issue.

Attorneys for Edjack and Hopkins did not respond to a request for comment. A message left for Hopkins was not responded to.

Wolfgang Mueller, the attorney representing the families of the two Oxford School victims in separate civil federal lawsuits, said he was unaware that the district had placed the two officials on leave.

"I don't know if anyone can draw any conclusions from this," Mueller said of the decision. "I would say I haven't heard of a similar move in the school shooting case, but it's typical in police shooting cases for an officer to be put on leave during the investigation."

Officials named in civil lawsuits

Mueller is representing Sandra Cunningham, whose daughter, Oxford High School freshman Phoebe Arthur, survived the gunshot wounds to the neck and cheek, and the family of 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, one of the students killed, who has filed a negligent homicide suit.

Ejak and Hopkins are named as defendants in the Mueller cases and in numerous civil lawsuits that have been filed against the district and other school officials by families of the dead, wounded and others.

One of the lawsuits accuses these two, as well as former Superintendent Throne, of creating a dangerous environment, including returning Crumbley to school after meeting with his parents in the counselor's office.

The same lawsuit says that Ejac must have noticed that the backpack seemed unusually heavy to him - now believed to be because of the gun and 48 rounds of ammunition it contained. For reasons unknown, officials - even though they suspected Crumbley had suicidal thoughts - "deliberately chose not to search" the backpack, the complaint says, and his parents did not tell anyone about the gun's existence.

According to the third lawsuit, Hopkins met with Crumbley on Nov. 29, the day before the shooting, after the teen's Spanish teacher noticed that he was using his cell phone during class to look up bullet information, the lawsuit says.

But no action was taken, except that a staffer left a voicemail message for his mother, the same day Crumbley tweeted, "I have now become Death, the destroyer of worlds. See you tomorrow in Oxford."

Early the next morning, an English teacher texted Hopkins about Crumbley watching a violent shooting video on his phone during class, and another teacher told Edjack that the then-15-year-old "drew extremely disturbing pictures and words in his math assignment," the lawsuit says.

It depicted "a gun with gunshot wounds to the torso and blood gushing from the victim's mouth. Underneath the words "Blood everywhere," a bullet was drawn. On the paper was a drawing of a weeping emoji face with the words, "My thoughts won't stop. Help me" and "My life is useless. "

What the lawyer said in court

Hopkins testified at the Feb. 24 court hearing in defense of Crumbley's parents, saying that hours before the shooting, a "sad" Ethan admitted that his family dog had died, he had lost his grandparents, his friend had moved away, and the COVID-19 pandemic was "hard on him."

Hopkins testified that he called Ethan into the office to talk about the drawing that upset him. The counselor said that Ethan initially said he drew a video game, but Hopkins pressed him about the phrase, also scrawled on the paper, "My life is useless.

"I wanted to ask, 'What does that mean? It doesn't look like a video game,'" he said. "Then his behavior changed. He became sad. He started pausing in his speech."

Hopkins testified that he called his parents to the school on Nov. 30. When they arrived, they "were not friendly or caring," he said.

According to Hopkins, before his parents arrived, he tried to get Ethan to talk, asking about his plans after graduation. Ethan told him, 'I know it looks bad, but I'm not going to do anything,'" Hopkins testified.

The school psychologist emphasized to the court that he "determined that there were enough suicidal thoughts for me to call him at home. But he did not believe that the teenager was "actively suicidal," nor did he believe that Ethan was a threat.

Hopkins noted that Ethan was one of 400 students in his care in three classes.

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