ELHS Taking Preventive Steps With Gun Violence


ELHS, alongside the East Lyme Police Department (ELPD) and state laws, help prevent school gun violence


According to the Washington Post, since 1999, around 278,000 students have experienced gun violence in schools throughout the United States.

Results from a Jan. 17 Viking Saga Instagram poll on @elhssaga of 150 ELHS students.

This leaves many students and parents wondering: What does ELHS and the town do to protect its students and teachers from potential gun violence?

“The number of things that happen in the building to try to make sure students are safe is an ongoing response,” said principal Deb Kelly.

The most helpful action students can do to help prevent gun violence according to Ms. Kelly is paying attention to “red flags.”

Then when you see a “red flag,” talk to a trusted adult. A “red flag” is a warning sign shown by a person when it comes to gun violence against themselves or others.

According to school psychologist Chris Mountain, some “red flags” include access to guns, poor mental health, especially thoughts of hurting themselves or others, and exposure to gun violence outside of school.

“If we have a concern about a student and there’s a health and safety issue, there’s a variety of things we do,” said Mr. Mountain.

Some of those strategies involve using Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Service two on one, which has the at risk individual talk to two people about their issue. Also having the police and the school talk to the at risk individual.

When it comes to gun violence in general, Connecticut has passed what is called a “red flag” gun law.

According to the New York Times, “red flag” gun laws “authorize courts to issue a special type of protection order.” This law allows police to temporarily take away guns from people who are deemed by a court a danger to themselves or others.

This law has only been passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

This type of law is a significant part of keeping not only students, but society as a whole safe.

“The first thing that we do is education,” said chief of police Michael Finkelstein.

The East Lyme Police Department (ELPD) is in charge of the Challenge program taught at the EL schools and is often engaging in conversations with students about gun safety inside and out of the school walls.

“Having detailed plans for the response for any active school violence or threat of school violence, I think that is an important piece,” said Mr. Finkelstein.

Mr. Finkelstein said that the ELPD works closely with the school to identify students who are at risk and are trying to harm other people. This is so the school and ELPD can intervene before any potential planned gun violence can occur.

School resource officer Don Hull said, as a law enforcement officer in Connecticut, he needs to be re-certified every three years. Included in that recertification is active shooter training.

Active shooter training is done within the ELPD and regionally with officers from other towns. It helps officers locally train how to react to an active shooter in a variety of different circumstances.

The ELPD works hard to keep the students and staff of ELPS safe from gun violence.

The regional training is beneficial because if there is an active shooter in ELHS, officers from other towns are able to assist and have the same exact training as ELPD officers.

Mr. Hull said a general way to deal with an active shooter in a school would be to “identify and locate” the individual.

“East Lyme, from the superintendent, all the way down, does a phenomenal job about school, student and staff security and safety,” Mr. Hull said.

The school provides educational opportunities to the parents about student safety and gun violence prevention. One of these opportunities was Wednesday, Sept. Here members of the ELPD held a “Gun Safety Presentation and Discussion” in the ELHS commons.

Ms. Kelly said that these assemblies are “unfortunately not always incredibly attended,” but the school still tries to bring awareness to this topic.

ELHS posts information about future educational opportunities on the ELHS website or on the high school newsletters sent to parents.

When you see something, ELHS, say something. That will keep you, your friends, and your teachers safe.