Parents Receive Lengthy Prison Sentences For Son’s School Shooting

by Tommy Grant

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Are the parents of mass murderers criminally responsible for the behavior of their violent, unstable kids?

Apparently, in Michigan they are, as the parents of the 15-year-old student who shot and killed four and injured six others at Oxford High School in a Detroit suburb in 2021 have been handed lengthy prison sentences.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were each found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter back in March. On Tuesday, both were sentenced by Judge Cheryl Matthews to 10 to 15 years in prison for what the court considered their part in the killings.

“Parents are not expected to be psychic, but these convictions are not about poor parenting,” the judge said at the sentencing. “These convictions confirm repeated acts, or lack of acts, that could have halted an oncoming runaway train—about repeatedly ignoring things that would make a reasonable person feel the hair on the back of their neck.

“Guidelines in this manner do not capture of the catastrophic impact of the acts or in the action. And in these matters, the guidelines do not take into account the complete lack of insight both defendants have for their behavior to this very day.”

Prosecutors argued that the parents ignored a number of warning signs leading up to the shooting at the school. And, according to prosecutors, the parents had bought a gun for their son but did not limit his access to it.

The parents, however, argued during the trial that the school held more responsibility for not alerting them to a number of issues that had arisen. “In the counselor’s office that morning (of the shooting), none of those previous issues were brought to our attention,” Jennifer Crumbley said during the trial. “We were never asked to take him home that day.”

According to an independent report, the school failed to check the young murderer’s backpack for weapons after teachers discovered disturbing, violent drawings the day of the shooting. He then shot the other students and teacher within hours after being sent back to class.

As Stephen J. Morse, a law and psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the BBC after Jennifer Crumbley was convicted last month, the verdict could result in courts looking for “scapegoats” in similar cases. “I understand that the was not necessarily the best mother in the world, but this is not a crime,” he said.

The precedent set by the convictions and lengthy sentences is, indeed, a dangerous one considering the fact that U.S. law is generally designed to hold only individuals responsible for their own actions. The conviction and sentencing begs the question of how many other parents of youngsters perpetrating mass murders in schools could now face 10 to 15 years in prison for manslaughter. Or how many parents of teen gang members gunning each other down on the streets of Chicago or other big cities could now be charged for the crimes. Or how many parents of New York City youth punching elderly pedestrians could face trial for aggravated assault.

The young killer is already serving a life sentence for the murders. Both parents have been in jail for two and a half years while awaiting trial and sentencing.

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