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The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

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The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

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Jennifer Crumbley: School Shooter’s Mother Found Guilty

Jennifer Crumbley, mother to a school shooter, was recently sentenced to four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection to her son’s crimes. The guilty verdict raises questions about the future of gun control and parental responsibility.

Ethan Crumbley opened gunfire on his Michigan high school on Nov. 30, 2021, killing four students and maiming seven others. However, the 2021 Oxford High School shooting also raises legal quandaries for Ethan’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, invoking an unprecedented case with the potential to shape the future of gun control. 

Both parents pleaded not guilty to their charges of four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Crumbley, who had bought the gun and stored it irresponsibly, will be tried separately in March. His wife, however, was successfully convicted on Feb. 6. The prosecution referenced Ms. Crumbley’s text messages to her son, as well as Ethan’s journal, as evidence of neglect and a call for her accountability and subsequent imprisonment. 

Hoping to prove her innocence, Jennifer Crumbley testifies on the stand on Feb. 1 in Pontiac, Mich (Credit: Mandi Wright).

The prosecution highlighted Ethan’s hallucinations, violent drawings and requests for a therapist as evident warning signs ignored by Ms. Crumbley. While one could argue that this was merely a mistake on Ms. Crumbley’s behalf, a counselor at Oxford High School intervened to discuss Ethan’s debilitated mental health and violent writings two hours before the shooting. At this meeting, Ms. Crumbley decided to let her son stay at school, claiming in court that Ethan “said being around peers usually helps” with his sadness. Only Ms. Crumbley knew that Ethan had access to a gun, but because she withheld this information from the school counselor, his backpack went unchecked, and the gun was neither discovered nor confiscated.

“While I do not think [the case] will be used as a precedent for all school shooting/mass shooting cases, I am confident that it will have a significant impact,” said Mr. Cohen, advisor of North High’s Mock Trial team. “However, I do not think the magnitude of this ruling should be lost on anyone; this was a monumental decision, one that will undoubtedly be talked about well into the future.”

Twenty-one witnesses further corroborated the prosecution’s claims of neglect—though Ethan himself did not testify on either side. Despite his conviction of four counts of first-degree murder and 19 other charges related to the shooting, Ethan could have spoken as a witness in a court of law. The judge of Ms. Crumbley’s case, however, did not require this, as it could be self-incriminating and jeopardize his eligibility for appeal in the future. 

One of the defense’s stronger arguments pointed out that many troubled teens mask their behavior at home, leaving parents and guardians none the wiser. On the stand, Ms. Crumbley also deflected some blame onto the school counselors, claiming it was their responsibility to identify self-injurious or violent behavior in a student.

Defendant Jennifer Crumbley (right) stands with her attorney Sharon Smith (left) on Feb. 5, awaiting the jury’s verdict (Credit: Bill Pugliano).

Similarly, some students at North High maintain that although Ms. Crumbley’s actions reveal undeniable neglect, she should not be punished for her son’s crimes: “She should be charged, but I don’t know if involuntary manslaughter is the right choice,” said sophomore Max Mueller. “Negligence is clear, but people shouldn’t be linked to manslaughter that they didn’t commit.”

The defense shared Mueller’s perspective; in the past, parents of school shooters have been charged with neglect, but never involuntary manslaughter. Why should Ms. Crumbley alone be held—partially—liable for her son’s crimes?

Well, in the words of prosecutor Marc Keast, Ethan’s parents “didn’t do any number of tragically small and easy things that would have prevented [the shooting].” This difference ultimately prompted the jury’s guilty verdict.

Oxford High School students hold a vigil at a local church on Nov. 30, the night of the shooting, in memoriam (Credit: Jeff Kowalsky).

“I thought the case was very interesting, and there were a lot of factors put into it, but the jury made the right decision,” said freshman Sam Goldman. “Voting guilty sets a better precedent for the future of gun control.”

With Ms. Crumbley’s sentence, future courtrooms can hold parents accountable for their children’s wrongdoings, especially those related to weaponry. Gun control in America remains a point of contention, but Ms. Crumbley’s fate can urge parents to become more protective of their weapons—and their children. The guilty verdict acts as both a warning and a wake-up call for American gun-owning parents and students alike.

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About the Contributor
Jolie Nassi, Managing Editor
Jolie Nassi is one of Guide Post’s managing editors. Her writing can be found in the New York Times, Guide Post, and the wall of CS’s backroom. In addition to writing, her other hobbies include reading, researching historical events, and drinking prolific amounts of bubble tea with her friends. She is also an officer for several clubs at North High, such as Model U.N. and Mock Trial. Jolie is a passionate grammarian, dedicated CSer, and aspiring English major.

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