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Maryland district sued over fatal 2018 school shooting

Jan. 21, 2020
The family of a 16-year-old girl who was fatally shot at Great Mills High School contends that the St. Mary's County failed to protect her.

The parents of a high school sophomore who died in a 2018 school shooting have sued the St. Mary’s County (Md.) school system, contending that officials failed to protect their daughter.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Jaelynn Willey, 16, died two days after her former boyfriend, Austin Rollins, shot her in the head inside Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Md. 

The lawsuit asserts that Rollins had repeatedly grabbed, pushed and yelled at Willey in sight of school personnel in the two months before the shooting.

School officials knew that Rollins "was likely to commit an act of deadly violence against Jaelynn Willey,” the lawsuit contends.

“The parents feel very strongly that our most precious resources — our children — should be able to get up and go to school every day with parents knowing they will return home safe,” says Lauren M. Geisser, a Baltimore attorney representing the family.

Rollins shot himself to death after shooting Willey and another student on March 20, 2018.

The lawsuit contends that the school system didn’t take actions to prevent the violence, such as disciplining Rollins, using a handheld metal scanning device on students as they entered the building, or having enough school police officers in the building.

Rollins had a “significant history of violence” and of making threats to shoot a gun inside the school, the lawsuit claims. After the students broke up, Rollins stalked Willey during school, texting her friends and waiting for her outside classrooms and by her car, according to the suit.

The school should have known that Rollins would “continue his attacks and would increase or escalate his violence,” the suit argues.

The lawsuit alleges that threats of school violence were made a month before the shooting and again just 24 hours before the attack inside the school, but does not specify who made those threats.

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