Discomfort in Schools Escalate With Increase in Mass Shootings

Another school shooting at Michigan State University has students feeling concerned about gun violence


Three students were killed and five more were left critically injured after 43-year-old Anothony McRae brought two handguns, an excess of ammunition, and a list of other schools to travel to and target, to Michigan State University (MSU) Feb. 13.

As MSU becomes one of countless headlines of gun violence in schools, the fear of such a threat grows in communities across the country, including EL.

“The day the shell casing was found I was peering over my shoulder in the hallway. I was scared,” sophomore Makenna Page said.

The referenced bullet shell casing was found in the ELHS commons one day before the 10-year anniversary of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“When I found out, I got scared and had my mom pick me up. I thought it was kind of weird that the school didn’t take more action,” freshman Maya Kenyon said.

After conferring with police and determining there was no threat to student safety, administration chose to continue the regular school day.

“If I felt you, or any of your friends, or my wife [English teacher Alexa Kydd] was in any danger that day, I would have voiced my expression that we should do something. But, I felt comfortable that day with the way things played out and how things were handled,” Assistant Principal Henry Kydd said in regard to the shell casing.

Administrators know not everyone will be happy with the way they handle safety decisions including the shell casing, but they felt “confident that it was an accident” due to the video recording of the commons that morning. Mr. Kydd categorizes making safety decisions like this and others as extremely heavy and something he has lost sleep over.

Behind the scenes, much goes into making sure everyone at ELHS is safe, starting with Monday morning meetings. Each Monday, all of administration and the district head of security, Christopher Olsen, share information and updates from town to ensure safety procedures are up to date.

Mr. Olsen feels strongly that the ELHS security team is well prepared to control high intensity situations. ELHS security staff do not carry guns, but they have had extensive training to diffuse unsafe situations.

“In New London County, we have the LEC, the Law Enforcement Council. We do all of our training with other departments so every three years police officers have to go through a 40-hour class and Wednesday is a 8-10 hour day where it’s just active shooter training,” school resource officer Don Hull said.

On top of the ELHS security team, the school also has Officer Hull and the entire EL police department fully
trained and prepared to respond to an active shooting scenario.

“People don’t take it [lockdowns] seriously. You always see people on their phones and talking in the lockdowns. Even some teachers don’t take them seriously,” sophomore Aiden Minogue said.

Like Minogue, some students fear that lockdowns won’t help if an active shooting were to happen. The main goal of a lockdown is to contain students to certain areas of the building to ensure law enforcement is able to dismantle the threat without endangering students.

“In a real situation, if you were in a classroom and you knew something was going on and the teacher and students in
that classroom knew they could get out, the expectation is that the teacher and those students use their common sense and get out,” Mr. Kydd said. Lockdown drills are meant to ensure that students know where to go in case of an emergency. Schools practice them in hopes that they will never be needed.

According to the American Journal of Prevention Medicine, 30 percent of students said they felt unsafe after major school shootings. Another way ELHS is working toward comfort for students is by ensuring mental health resources are available. It’s important that everyone’s basic needs are met, including mental health.

“It’s a necessity just like medical health. If you break your leg you have to go to the doctor. I look at it the exact same way. If you’re not okay being in your classes, you’re not going to be able to do well academically. So it feeds into every single aspect of kids’ life,” school therapist for North Haven High School, Mandy Bryne said. With one full time
social worker, two part time social workers, two psychologists, and one substance abuse counselor, ELHS has taken steps to focus on student safety.

“Schools need to be upfront about it, and be more transparent. You can’t talk mental health away,” Ms. Bryne said.