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Plan to distribute $2M to victims of Oxford High School mass shooting finalized

A final plan to distribute $2 million in donations to the victims of the Oxford High School mass shooting will include more students and staff than an initial proposal that drew criticism from the community.

But calls to expand eligibility to all students and staff who were on campus on the day of the Nov. 30 mass school shooting were not heeded by an 11-member volunteer steering committee charged with approving a distribution plan.

The initial plan, released in February by the National Compassion Fund which is managing money donated to the Oxford Community Memorial and Victims Fund, would have limited payments for psychological trauma to students who were in or near a single hallway, restroom and one classroom where the shootings occurred. That plan would have potentially excluded hundreds of students, staff and others who fled the building. Four students were killed and seven others, including a teacher, were wounded. 

The new plan extends eligibility to students and staff in three dozen classrooms and to anyone who rendered aid or took "extraordinary action" to prevent loss of life, regardless of their location on campus, said Jeff Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund and the Oxford fund manager.

"The length of the area (of eligibility) has increased," Dion said. "From just the hallway and now it's the classrooms along the corridor," Dion said. "We were hearing there were people in classrooms that could see the shooter. They could not get the night lock down. We are looking to cover direct exposure to the violence."

The committee learned more details about the shooting after collecting public feedback on the initial plan and holding a town hall on March 21, Dion said.

"What we didn’t understand before is that some people who rendered assistance were not in that circle and never in that circle," Dion said. "There were gunshot victims who were running and collapsed outside school. That is where people helped them."

The plan includes three categories of victims: legal heirs of those who were killed as a direct result of the shooting; those who were physically injured by gunshot or shrapnel; and those who meet the eligibility requirements designated for psychological trauma. 

The volunteer steering committee, comprised of Oxford area parents, civic and business leaders, mental health professionals and others, finalized the plan in recent days and published it on Tuesday. The group will also process victim applications and distribute the donations.

The plan will govern the distribution of the funds, which came through a GoFundMe campaign.

It includes an updated map of the high school that shows the areas in which students who suffered psychological trauma would have to have been present to be compensated.

The new rules say individuals deemed "present" are eligible for payment if they were physically present within the designated area at the time of the shooting — which includes the hallway where the shooting occurred, extending from the restroom adjacent to room 258 down to room 211, and includes all the rooms, offices, and restrooms along that corridor.

The new rules were also changed to say anyone is eligible if they "were present on campus and either provided direct assistance to a gunshot victim, or took extraordinary action to prevent loss of life," said Dion.

Eligibility for those who experienced psychological trauma that led them to seek ongoing mental health treatment was also extended from Wednesday to May 5, said Dion.

Dion said he has heard from families who have had trouble accessing mental services or whose children have refused or declined to seek help.

Several parents who spoke at the March 21 town hall said all children and staff in the building that day should be part of the fund and that telling people they don’t meet the criteria is re-traumatizing.

Dion said he could not say how many students and staff would receive a payment from the fund. 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.

"We know it is hundreds but there is a lot of things. That is a ceiling. There could be some people who choose not to apply," Dion said. "It's really hard to gauge what we think we are going to end up with. Sometimes half the people don’t apply. They think other people need it more."

The deadline to file an application for the fund is May 6. Fund administrators will review applications from April 15 to May 29. Recommendations for payments to eligible applicants are sent to the steering committee for independent review and approval.

On June 13, the committee is expected to approve fund distributions with payments beginning on June 17.