Ever since the 1999 attack at Columbine High School, the parents of children who commit school shootings have come under scrutiny over missed warning signs and whether they should bear some blame. But they are rarely held criminally responsible in the raw aftermath of a school shooting, even though many underage attackers arm themselves with guns from home.
But in an extraordinary news conference, Ms. McDonald recounted a nearly minute-by-minute litany of missed opportunities to intervene — including how the suspect’s parents had been alerted to a disturbing drawing he made containing violent images and a plea for help just hours before the shooting.
“I am in no way saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents, but the facts of this case are so egregious,” Ms. McDonald said.
“I’m angry as a mother, I’m angry as a prosecutor, I’m angry as a person that lives in this county, I’m angry,” she added. “There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”
On the morning of Tuesday’s shooting, the suspect’s parents were urgently called to Oxford High School after one of his teachers found an alarming note he had drawn, scrawled with images of a gun, a person who had been shot, a laughing emoji and the words “Blood everywhere” and “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
School officials told the parents during the in-person meeting that they were required to seek counseling for their son, Ethan, Ms. McDonald said. The teenager’s parents did not want their son to be removed from school that day, and did not ask him whether he had the gun with him or search the backpack he brought with him to the office, Ms. McDonald said.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon, that they gave him, is unconscionable, and I think it’s criminal,” she said.