$1.7 million has been donated to the victims of Oxford High. Here is the plan to distribute it

A proposed distribution of $1.7 million in donations to victims of the Oxford High School mass shooting would limit psychological trauma payments to students who were in or near a hallway, restroom and a classroom where the shooting occurred.

The plan – obtained by The Detroit News from the National Compassion Fund, which handles money donated to the Oxford Community Memorial and Victims Fund – is not final and is subject to public comment at a March 21 high school town hall.

The proposal would potentially exclude hundreds of students, staff and others who fled the building on the day of the Nov. 30 shooting in which four students were killed and seven others, including a teacher, injured .

Jeff Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund and the Oxford fund manager, said it was complex to work out the formula for distributing donations to the victims of the mass shootings.

“We ask three questions: is this the right thing to do? Is it right ? Can we practically get there? said Dio.

Dion’s organization has a track record of managing funds after mass shootings in schools, theaters and nightclubs. He managed funds for victims of mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and Santa Fe High School. He has distributed $95.8 million in funds since 2014.

In Oxford, he works with an 11-member volunteer steering committee made up of Oxford-area parents, city and business leaders, mental health professionals and others to gather public input, approve a distribution plan, process victims’ requests and distribute donations. A law firm provides pro bono services to review claims and validate victims through medical records.

On Tuesday, the steering committee approved a draft plan that will govern the distribution of funds, which came via a GoFundMe campaign. The plan includes a map of the high school that shows areas where students with psychological trauma should have been present be compensated.

“Here at Oxford we draw a circle on the map. If you’re in the circle you’re covered, if you’re outside you’re not,” Dion said of the eligibility zones. proposed for consideration by the fund’s local steering committee. “We are trying to find a balance and help those most affected.”

April Ventline, a parent from Oxford, was upset after reading the plan this week and fears it could further divide the community where tempers continue to flare over the shooting.

“I think it will light the game by pitting family against family. This child’s trauma is valuable and your child’s is not,” said Ventline, who has a senior at Oxford High School who was at school. school on the day of the shooting but not in the area defined in the proposal.

“My son was in room 304. He heard the gunshots, the shoving,” Ventline said. “He had to hide and had his notebook to defend himself. He is just as traumatized as the children at the end of this corridor.

“How can they pick and choose who is traumatized?”

“Now we get feedback”

Four categories of victims have been proposed so far: the legal heirs of those who were killed as a direct result of the shooting, those who were physically injured by a gunshot or shrapnel, those who suffered another type of physical injury during the incident and those who meet the designated eligibility requirements for psychological trauma.

According to the draft document, anyone who was in the designated area of ​​the school at the time of the shooting and “who suffered psychological trauma that caused them to seek, no later than March 30, treatment for ongoing mental health with multiple sessions”, is eligible to receive payment under the proposal.

Within that group, Dion said a higher level of benefits could be given to students and faculty who were in physical proximity to the accused shooter and who were at ‘imminent risk of death’ or who provided direct assistance. to the victims.

The school had about 1,650 students in classes on the day of the shooting with about 100 teachers and staff, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

Dion, who is a lawyer by trade and has advocated for the rights of victims of crime for more than two decades – his 23-year-old sister, Paulette, was murdered by a serial killer – said the proposal is a suggestion on the how the process should work in Oxford.

“Now we get feedback. Anyone can tell us what they think,” Dion said. “It’s great or it’s stupid. We’ll listen to what everyone is saying. We’ll have a town hall at the end. In my experience, sometimes people just want to share their experience.”

Dion said in some mass shootings, schools often had no record of who was in the building or in which room at the time of the shooting. Some decided that everyone on a campus was eligible for psychological benefits and people inside an affected building were eligible for a higher level of benefits.

This happened during the Parkland shooting where everyone on campus was eligible, Dion said, but people in Building 1200, where the shooting took place, were in a higher payout tier.

At Stoneman Douglas, a $10.5 million fund was distributed to the families of the 17 killed, 18 injured and 1,500 people who were validated for psychological trauma, Dion said.

“There were 3,500 people on campus that day, so half didn’t apply for benefits,” Dion said. “There are a lot of people looking at this and saying, ‘It’s not for me. I don’t need it, other people need it more.'”

The distribution plan for the $1.28 million fund created for victims of the 2018 Santa Fe high school shooting paid the families of the 10 killed and 14 injured Gunshot and 23 people who were validated for psychological trauma, Dion said.

“In Santa Fe, they limited the psychological benefits to people who were only in the classrooms,” Dion said.

“They guide us”

Joe Farrell is chair of the steering committee. Her son was inside Oxford High School when the shooting happened.

Farrell said Oxford is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone.

Farrell and three others have launched a GoFundMe campaign for the families of students killed in the shooting: Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

“Close friends of ours lost their son. My neighbors lost their daughter,” Farrell said. “This is all pretty painful. A few friends and I started a GoFundMe campaign for families who have lost their children.”

Farrell, who works in IT, said he volunteered to chair the steering committee to ensure funds go to families, but he is still learning about the process for distributing and determining funds. victims.

“They guide us every step of the way,” Farrell said of Dion and the National Compassion Fund. “My understanding as president is to be the resource person in case of questions. We are local. We will have a town hall.”

Farrell said the money should be given to people who need it most. The money distributed by the fund is a gift and will not be based on economic loss to victims, officials said.

“It’s super complex. We want to make sure there are no expenses attached to it,” Farrell said, referring to money being deducted for fees or other expenses. “Some funds don’t seem trustworthy and you don’t know where they are going.

“I did a little research on the foundation itself to try to find out how they are funded. They spend a lot of time on it. Everything seems to be going well,” Farrell added. “They know how it all works and it looks like there’s no cost, that’s what I hope.”

When asked how his own son was doing after the shooting, Farrell said he was fine.

“He’s sad like everyone else. He ran like everyone else. I think the kids are all doing as well as they can,” Farrell said.

Oxford Community School officials did not respond to a request for comment on the proposal. Farrell said the district sent regular updates on the fund and the work of the steering committee.

From Orlando to Oxford

Tiara Parker has no connection with the Oxford community. But Parker, 26, is a member of the steering committee as she was a victim of the Orlando nightclub shooting in 2016. She was with her 18-year-old cousin, Akyra Monet Murray, who was killed by the shooter in a toilet cubicle.

Parker warned that the work of distributing funds and the decision-making around identifying who is and who is not a victim can cause an uproar in a community.

“Some people get angry. Some people feel empowered,” Parker said. “There is a very strict vetting process to make sure the people really involved get the money. But we have to make sure that those who are accounted for are those who have been killed and injured. Those are the things we we focus.”

Parker said other groups that distribute money to shooting victims typically don’t have an actual victim or survivor as part of the decision-making process. She applauded the NCF for doing so.

“Everyone has different grief. Victims have different ways of coping. Someone can go back and some can’t,” Parker said. “At least they know they’re not alone. Being part of this committee means making sure everyone gets the funds they need and the support they need.”

Comments are accepted

The committee is accepting comments on the proposal until March 20, and the town hall is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 21 at the auditorium of Oxford High School.

Comments on the plan can be emailed to [email protected] by March 20 or by attending the town hall on March 21 at the auditorium of Oxford High School, 745 N. Oxford Road.

The request for funds application should be available online by April 4 and close on April 29. The fund closes to donations in May. The steering committee approves the distribution plan on June 8 and distribution begins on June 13 on a rolling basis, according to the draft plan.

Access to the online application will be available at https://nationalcompassion.org/fund/oxford-hs-survivors-fund/ around April 4. Applicants who do not have internet access can call (855) 484-2846.

Three weeks after the end of the month in which all disbursements are complete, Dion said an independent audit firm will carry out a review of the fund.

“We recognize that we’re going to leave and go help another community. Our steering committees are there and want to be proud of their service. We appreciate that,” Dion said.

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