School Shootings Now Have Villainous Parents

It was probably inevitable

Will Leitch
GEN
Published in
5 min readDec 6, 2021

--

A Mother’s Reckoning is one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read. It’s a memoir from Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. The book is an aching, open wound, one of loss, guilt, regret, and profound suffering, a memoir that’s about her, about her son, about motherhood, and, above all else, about the horror of knowing someone she loved had caused such monstrosities to so many families and not having any idea of how she could have stopped it. Every time there is a school shooting — and there are so many, including one in my hometown — I think about that book, about the parents, about how little they surely knew, how their lives are ruined as well, how unfathomable living with that guilt, earned or not, must be. People reflexively turn the parents into villains. But they almost never are.

Almost. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the shooting in Oakland County, Michigan, in which a 15-year-old student shot and killed four of his classmates, is how explicitly complicit his parents appear to have been. Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, upon charging James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of shooter Ethan Crumbley, with manslaughter, laid out exactly how involved they were. And it’s truly jaw-dropping.

[The day before the shooting] a teacher at the Oxford High School observed Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his cellphone during class and reported the same to school officials. Jennifer Crumbley was contacted via voice mail by school personnel regarding that son’s inappropriate internet search. School personnel indicate they followed that voice mail up with an email but received no response from either parent. Thereafter, Jennifer Crumbley exchanged text messages about the incident with her son on that day, saying: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

…. A school counselor came to the classroom and removed the shooter and brought him to the office with his backpack. Counselor obtained the drawing but the shooter had already altered it. The drawings of the gun and the bloody figure were scratched out along with the words, “Help me” and “My life is useless,” “The world is dead,” and “Blood everywhere.” Those…

--

--

Will Leitch
GEN
Writer for

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com