The St. Mary’s County commissioners are among 21 parties added as defendants earlier this month in a lawsuit surrounding the 2018 shooting death of Jaelynn Willey at Great Mills High School.
The suit, which was originally filed in January of this year against the county board of education, accuses several defendants of ignoring dating violence concerns involving Jaelynn Willey, 16, and the gunman who killed her, 17-year-old Austin Rollins, who shot himself shortly after being confronted by St. Mary’s Dep. Blaine Gaskill at the school on the morning of March 20, 2018.
The legal team representing the Willey family, which includes Leonardtown lawyers Kathleen McClernan, Marsha Williams and Alicia Stack, wrote in its latest complaint the defendants ignored threats and abusive behavior directed at Jaelynn Willey from Rollins, also adding the school system and county government “treated women differently based on irrational gender stereotypes,” and failed to believe women who reported stalking, dating violence and harassment.
Great Mills swim team coach Troy Kroll is accused in the complaint of failing to properly escalate concerns raised by Melissa and Daniel Willey, Jaelynn’s parents, regarding Rollins’ behavior prior to the shooting, as well.
The suit also alleges Gaskill, who at the time was assigned as a school resource officer at the high school, was “nowhere to be found or otherwise available to screen students who were entering” the building that day, and no metal detecting wands were used, permitting Rollins to enter with a weapon.
When asked about the suit, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said the agency “doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”
“Not only did Great Mills and the defendants fail to protect Jaelynn Willey in any way, Great Mills High School and defendants made informed decisions and took steps which actively increased the danger to her and created new dangers Jaelynn had ability to abate,” the complaint says.
Newly added defendants also include each individual member of the St. Mary’s school board, St. Mary’s public schools’ Superintendent Scott Smith, Great Mills High School Principal Jake Heibel, school safety chief Michael Wyant and 10 “John” and “Jane Does,” who are employees of the school.
Although lawyers for the board of education have agreed to represent board employees and some school employees, the commissioners, Gaskill and anonymous defendants will not be represented by them, according to court papers.
County attorney David Weiskopf said on Wednesday the county had not yet been served with the lawsuit, and would not speak about the litigation even if the county had been.
“We will take a look at it” when the lawsuit is served, Weiskopf said.
Lawyers for the school board employees are due to file a response on Thursday, Sept. 10.
In March, lawyers for the board of education filed a response to the second complaint, alleging the complaint failed to state claims needed for a finding against the school board and that the claims could be dismissed, offering to provide affidavits proving nobody within the school board was aware of harassment.
The school board has maintained that no employee of the public school system could have foreseen the shooting.