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Parents of teen killed in school shooting sue board of education

This undated photo provided by the Willey family shows Jaelynn Willey. A teenager armed with a handgun shot and critically wounded Willey inside a Maryland school on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, and the shooter was killed when a school resource officer confronted him moments after the gunfire erupted. A third student was in good condition after he was shot. (Courtesy of the Willey family via AP)

This undated photo provided by the Willey family shows Jaelynn Willey, who was shot and killed in her St. Mary’s County high school in 2018 by fellow student Austin Rollins, with whom she had previously been in a relationship. (Photo courtesy of the Willey family via AP)

The family of a 16-year-old student killed in a school shooting in 2018 filed suit against the St. Mary’s County Board of Education last week, alleging the school failed to protect her.

Jaelynn Willey was shot on March 20, 2018, by Austin Rollins, who later killed himself, at Great Mills High School. Willey had been in a relationship with Rollins that had recently ended, and her parents allege Rollins’ actions were foreseeable and preventable. Willey was hospitalized and died two days later.

Melissa and Daniel Willey filed suit in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Friday alleging federal civil rights violations — failure to protect Jaelynn while she was in the school’s custody, creating or worsening a dangerous situation, and making arbitrary or conscience-shocking actions leading to a violation of Jaelynn’s rights — as well as negligence, premises liability and wrongful death.

“Not only did Great Mills fail to protect Jaelynn Willey in any way, Great Mills High School made informed decisions and took steps which actively increased the danger to her and created new dangers Jaelynn had (no) ability to abate,” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead of creating this danger, Great Mills High School could have prevented this tragedy.”

Jaelynn Willey’s relationship with Rollins, which began in 2017, “quickly soured” and he began harassing her daily through text messages, social media requests, and verbal and physical confrontations at the school, according to the complaint. School personnel allegedly saw Rollins grab, push and yell at Willey, wait for her outside of classrooms and follow her to her car.

Willey’s parents say they told her swim coach they were concerned about Rollins’ behavior, but the school took no action.

A school shooting threat was made on Feb. 20, 2018, and the school added security that day but allegedly took no other preventive steps, according to the complaint. Another threat of mass violence was made less than 24 hours before Rollins shot Willey.

The lawsuit alleges that the school had metal-detecting wands and safety vestibules that officials chose not to use and that the limited number of security cameras were not closely monitored.

Great Mills “had a duty to act reasonably to protect students who are in its care, custody and control by supervising and exercising control over its pupils with reasonable care so as to prevent harm to others, including (Willey),” the lawsuit claims. The school “knew and/or should have known of Rollins’ dangerous behavior” and Willey’s death was foreseeable, according to the complaint.

The Willey family is represented by Lauren M. Geisser and Lauren M. Bell of Gilman & Bedigian LLC in Timonium and Kathleen McClernan of Williams, McClernan & Stack LLC in Leonardtown.

The case is Melissa and Daniel Willey et al. v. Board of Education of St. Mary’s County, 8:20-cv-00161.

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