Oxford School District Rejects Michigan AG's "Offer" Of Investigation

(Todd McInturf/Detroit News via AP, File)

The Oxford, Michigan public school system says a third party will conduct a review of the district’s handling of the 15-year old suspect accused of killing four classmates and wounding seven others, but that third party won’t be the Michigan Attorney General’s office. Democratic AG Dana Nessel offered to conduct the investigation, and clearly she wasn’t expecting the district’s response: thanks but no thanks.

“We had heard that the Oxford School District had indicated that they wanted a third party to review the policies and protocols that were in place and, really, the events leading up to the acts of November 30 and what happened during the course of the events. So I offered my department,” Nessel told CNN host Don Lemon.

“I thought, ‘What better agency to conduct a special review than the Michigan Department of Attorney General?’ We learned, just a short while ago, that the school district has turned down our offer and it said they’re going to go with a private security firm instead to conduct an internal review.”

On Sunday, Nessel, the top law enforcement officer in the state, offered to use her team to investigate the shooting that killed four students and injured seven people.

“I’m disappointed, quite honestly,” Nessel said on CNN.

She said she hopes the “school district cares as much about the safety of their students as they do shielding themselves from civil liability.”

Nessel’s response is a pretty good indication of why the district was smart to pass on her “offer” of help. As I’ve previously opined, I believe the district does have some culpability regarding the shooting, but bringing Nessel’s office in to conduct the independent investigation would be a bad idea.

Nessel is a political figure who has already used the shooting to demand new gun control laws in Michigan. In fact, Nessel used a tried-and-true talking point from the gun control lobby to call for swift passage of new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

“One of the things that happens I think a lot is that we have a school shooting somewhere and we’re in shock and in horror and we pay close attention to it for sometimes a limited amount of time and then we move on to the next thing,” she said. “I think it’s imperative that this time we not do that.”

Nessel could have chosen to stay above the political fray and the gun control debate, but instead she decided to issue a partisan response in her first comments after the shooting. And while she’s certainly titled to her opinion, she has no reason to be miffed about the district choosing to go with a non-partisan private firm to conduct an independent review.

That being said, the school district needs to be completely transparent about the scope of this independent review. In a letter to parents, Oxford school superintendent Tim Throne said the security firm will “review all district safety practices and procedures” and “all the events of the past week,” which is pretty vague. Will the review also include looking at the policies and procedures regarding student discipline, including any restorative justice practices that may have prevented the sheriff’s deputy stationed at the school from searching the suspect’s belongings and lockers before he was allowed to return to class, or will it focus solely on what happened once shots were fired?

The district made the right call by rejecting Nessel’s “help”, but it must also be willing for their preferred third party investigators to examine all of the policies that impacted how the high school handled the suspect before the shooting. Throne has promised a “full, transparent accounting of what occurred.” That’s a nice start, but parents, students, and staff should be demanding some specifics about the scope of the investigation rather than just taking the superintendent’s word. And none of us should expect that Nessel’s just going to sit back and not seek out the spotlight just because the district told her “no thanks.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office will probe Oxford Community Schools’ policies related to last week’s mass shooting, despite the district declining her invitation to launch an independent investigation.

“We’re not going to just do nothing,” Nessel told reporters Tuesday morning, the night after she said she was “extremely disappointed” by the district’s decision to decline her offer.

If Nessel had any political acumen she would have just announced that she was investigating the district to begin with, rather than disguising her demand as an offer for help. Now that her offer was rejected, her declaration that she’s investigating anyway reeks not only of partisan politics, but a desperate attempt to show her relevancy by exploiting a tragedy. That’s not a good look for a Democrat running for re-election next year… especially one who won her office with just 49% of the vote in the blue wave of 2018.