New pleadings in a lawsuit over the high-school shooting indicate a substitute teacher may never have passed on a warning of the impending shootings.
The substitute teacher who claimed she warned school officials of the impending mass shooting by a student at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 2014 may have actually kept the information to herself and is “grief stricken” over the guilt, according to new documents in a lawsuit filed by the parents of the dead and injured students.
The disputed efforts by substitute teacher Rosemary Cooper to notify officials of the threat, including allegations that she never told anyone, will be argued in Snohomish County Superior Court on Friday at a hearing to determine whether Cooper remains a defendant in the lawsuit.
Her attorney, David Schoeggl, claims that Cooper is immune from liability because she made a good-faith effort to report the information she had. They have asked that Cooper be dismissed from the lawsuit.
However, the victims’ families allege there is no real evidence Cooper told anyone, and that her own medical records indicate she’s guilt-ridden because of it.
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The lawsuit was filed by the families of the four students who were killed and a fifth who was critically injured when 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg gathered five friends at a table in the high school cafeteria on Oct. 24, 2014, then opened fire on them with a .40-caliber Beretta handgun before killing himself.
Killed were Gia Soriano, Zoe Gallaso and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, all 14, and Andrew Fryberg, 15. A fifth student, Nate Hatch, 15, was shot in the face but survived.
The lawsuit names as defendants Cooper and Raymond Fryberg, Gaylen’s father, who had illegally purchased the handgun and left it where his son could take it. He was convicted in U.S. District Court and sentenced to two years in prison.
The families had also sued the Marysville School District, however the district was dropped as a defendant, according to the families’ lawyers, after the School Board agreed to indemnify Cooper as a school employee whose actions, if reasonable, would be covered by insurance.
Cooper’s claim that she had warned the school about the shooting first surfaced in a 1,400-page report released by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. She told detectives that, on Oct. 22, she was told by a student there was going to be a shooting, and that she reported it to the front office.
Cooper retracted part of the story to detectives, though later she claimed she was pressured to do so.
According to the newly filed court documents, Cooper claims she told someone in the attendance office about the message and wrote a note to the teacher whose class she was covering, but nobody — not the detectives nor the civil attorneys during discovery — have turned up anyone she talked to, according to the documents.
Likewise, the teacher has said he did not receive any note.
The new documents also include notes from Cooper’s medical files, turned over in discovery, that raise additional questions. Notes from two therapists Cooper saw in July 2016 indicate Cooper “was suffering from extreme guilt for never having passed along the student warning.”
One therapist wrote that Cooper was “feeling guilty that prior to the shooting … a student showed her a text message where the perpetrator had texted he was going to kill himself but the student said not to worry … and (Cooper) did not follow up with staff.”
Two days later, Cooper told another health provider that she had mentioned the message to someone in the attendance office and intended to go to the administration, but “did not feel she needed to make a report as she determined that since her students knew about this, so must everyone else,” according to portions of the reports contained in court pleadings.
Cooper, the therapist wrote, “is filled with regret that she did not specifically report what she heard, feeling if she did, there may have been another outcome.”
Related video: A year after school shooting, one student reflectsAlisha Purdom, 18, was in math class when a classmate shot and killed four students in the cafeteria. She reflects on helping her community heal and dealing with fear that will follow her for the rest of her life. Read more. (Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)
Investigators and attorneys have never found anyone Cooper spoke with, and the teacher she was subbing for recalled no mention of anything like it in Cooper’s handoff note.
“An entire school staff does not forget about being warned of an impending shooting,” wrote Lincoln Beauregard, the attorney representing the families. “The truth is that a student warned Ms. Cooper of the shooting, and excessive guilt has caused her to create stories to the public about purportedly properly conveying the warnings.”