By Don Rush
Last week, on Aug. 26, the Oxford School Board had a special meeting to discuss a letter of understanding from the attorney group hired in 2022 to conduct an independent investigation into the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting at Oxford High School.
The letter was written at the request of Oxford Superintendent Dr. Vickie Markavitch after a number of people spoke at an earlier meeting in August, questioning the contract the board signed with the investigators and wondering if the board would receive a different final report than the one the public would have access to.
In May of 2022 the board hired the attorney group Varnum and Guidepost Solutions to conduct the investigation into the shooting where four students, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling, and Hana St. Juliana, were murdered and seven other people were injured by a then 15-year-old classmate. The investigation produced an earlier report on what the district does after the shooting in regards to safety, security, threat and suicide assessment. The final report will detail what happened leading up to, the day of and what happened after the shooting.
At last week’s special meeting Varnum partner Ronald DeWaard discussed the letter of understanding and said the final report will be released to the school district and the community at the same time, “on or before” Oct. 30.
“It is so important to this community, the families and the district that this report be done with the utmost of respect and be careful and with attention (to detail) so won’t have mistakes by being rushed,” DeWaard said. “Investigations of this type often take well over a year. There are literally tens of thousands of documents involved. Well over 100 witnesses were interviewed . . . there a huge volume of information, police reports, evidence and things of that nature . . . hundreds of pages of depositions . . . it was a complicated investigation but doable.”
He also said the investigative team had received additional information from the shooter’s Miller Hearing, information from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office and from the school district. He said that because some of the information they received from the prosecutor’s office on a confidentiality basis, the report would be given to the prosecutor to review.
“Because of some of that information obtained could affect future criminal proceedings,” he said.
In regards to the number of final reports, DeWaard said there will be only a single report released to the district and public at the same time.
“The review has always been completely independent from the board and from the district,” he said. “The board had never been briefed, has never been reported to, has never received information on the results of the investigation . . . the only discussions with the board have been on legal issues.”
The results of the report will remain in control by Guidepost Solutions, he stated, without influence from the board, the school district or by Varnum attorneys.
According to the letter, “documents and materials collected with the investigation and memoranda or witness interview will be maintained by Guidepost for one year following the issuance of the report.”
After that year, DeWaard clarified, documents and materials will be destroyed.
The next meeting of the school board is at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 12, at Oxford Middle School on Lakeville Rd.