Parents of Maryland Shooting Victim File Lawsuit Against School Board
The parents of Jaelynn Willey, a student at Great Mills High School who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, say that the school knew of his violent behavior and should have done more to prevent her death.
- By Haley Samsel
- January 22, 2020
The parents of Jaelynn Willey, a 16-year-old shot at Great Mills High School in 2018 by her ex-boyfriend, are suing the St. Mary’s County School Board in Maryland, claiming that the district could have done more to prevent their daughter’s death.
Willey was shot in a school hallway by a classmate she dated who had begun to harass her. She was taken off life support and died on March 23, 2018. (The shooter later killed himself after shooting Willey and another student).
Her parents, Daniel and Melissa Willey, are accusing school staff of not taking action when they knew that the ex-boyfriend was harassing Jaelynn and being physically abusive, local news outlet WTOP reported. He had grabbed, pushed and yelled at her directly outside of classrooms during school hours, according to the lawsuit, and Jaelynn’s parents had notified the school of his behavior.
School officials did not discipline the shooter, use a handheld metal scanning device on students as they entered the building to detect firearms, or have enough police officers in the school, the parents allege.
“This lawsuit was filed by the parents of Jaelynn Willey because our most precious resources — our children — should be able to go to school every day with parents knowing they will return home safe,” Lauren Geisser, a lawyer for the Willey family, said in a statement given to The Baltimore Sun.
The shooter had a “significant history of violence” and had made threats to use a gun at school. Administrators and teachers should have known that he would “increase or escalate his violence,” which included stalking Jaelynn as she went to classes and walked to her car.
In addition, Willey’s parents point to threats made to Great Mills High School on Feb. 20, 2018 -- a month before she was shot -- and on the day before the shooting, when a threat of mass violence was made. The school did not choose to use surveillance cameras or metal detecting wands on the day after the threat, according to Willey and their lawyers.
“In this matter, there were warning signs the school chose to ignore and the family seeks to hold the school responsible for this failure on behalf of their daughter,” Geisser said. “Schools continue to fail to institute safety measures to protect our most innocent vulnerable population that they are responsible for.”
The family is seeking punitive and compensatory damages, according to WTOP.
Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.