The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

How gun violence affects high school students

Rushing+by%2C+students+hurry+to+class+through+the+main+hallway+on+Oct+4.
Photo by Joelle King
Rushing by, students hurry to class through the main hallway on Oct 4.

In 2022, there were 647 mass shootings, and 20,200 deaths caused by gun violence, according to gunviolencearchieve.org. With these numbers, it’s hard for students to ignore the issue and not worry about their siblings or classmates let alone themselves.

School shootings have compromised the safety of staff and students, which can create a lasting fear for many who walk the halls, having to trust that there won’t be a person who decided to bring a gun to school that day.

The Office of Health and Safety is a new department to ELPS that was created over the summer.  The Office of Health and Safety was created with the intent to help create a safer school district.  Within this department is Heather Findley, who goes by Fin, who works as the District Mental Health Coordinator.  Matthew Morales who is the Director of Health and Safety. Lastly, there’s Paul Shanks who is the Behavior Systems Specialist.

As the District Mental Health Coordinator Fin works to increase the awareness of mental health, reduce the stigma around mental health and help and work with students during crises.

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“The Office of Health and Safety examines the physical, infrastructure and interpersonal ways safety must be addressed for the entire learning community,” Fin said. “The apex of this goal is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all.”

Rushing by, students hurry to class through the main hallway on Oct 4. (Photo by Joelle King)

Since she’s been working with youth for 15 years, Fin has heard every response there is to hear from students talking about gun violence.  Many students talk about how they have dealt with this before, and it doesn’t bother them.

“As a society, violence has become more prevalent, so unfortunately, there can be a level of desensitization, which can make it difficult to process that trauma and grieve,” Fin said. 

Last year with the lockdowns and threats surrounding gun violence, many students weren’t sure of their safety, which led to stress and anxiety.  One of these students was Maggie Swords (11).

“When we had lockdowns last year it was really scary,” Swords said. “We weren’t allowed on our phones to text our parents, so you kind of felt helpless.”  

Many students have dealt with gun violence before, which can cause them to go through the school day alert and anxious.

“For many years, gun violence, or the threat of gun violence, has been a reality for students across the country,” Fin said. “Many students have shared anxieties that they are not sure if something is going to happen, so they do not ‘let their guard down.’”

For Swords, and many students, getting an education isn’t a question, and despite the worries they might have, they continue to go to school every day.

“I just feel like there’s not really an option to not go to school, so you kind of just have to stick around,” Swords said.

Some students enjoy going to school to get away from their home situation. While other students dread going to school because of things like social situations and gun violence can cause reduced interactions and general uneasiness at school.  These factors can play a part in how students will react to the threat of gun violence at school.

“Gun violence impacts each student in a unique way,”  Fin said.  “ For some, being at school can feel like a safe haven (if the violence is in their home area). For others, it can create a strong response in the school house (if they did not feel safe at school).”

Since the nervousness around gun violence at school has died down a bit after the gun violence events, Swords typically doesn’t worry about gun violence or her safety while at school. There can be a paranoia when we are faced with the uncertainty of what is happening and when people see their peers scared this can become a domino effect that leads to more fear around the situation.

“I believe there is also concern that when a significant incident occurs, that others will copy that behavior to encourage and enflame fear,” Fin said. “This can increase confusion and delay healing because there is an additional level of concern.”

If your mental health has been affected by gun violence, and you find yourself struggling, reach out to a counselor, trusted adult, or friend that can help you through this difficult time.

“Seeking mental health support can be extremely beneficial and we continue to find ways to reach as many students as possible,” Fin said.

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About the Contributors
Ella Moore, Website Editor
Ella Moore is in the class of 2024 and is the Website Editor for Portrait.  This is her second year on staff as a senior.  Ella's favorite thing about journalism is being kept informed about her community and differing communities.  When she's not in the newsroom, Ella enjoys listening to Taylor Swift and going on hikes with her dog.
Joelle King, Photography Editor
Joelle King is in the class of 2025 and is a Photography Editor for Portrait.  This is her second year on staff as a junior.  Joelle's favorite thing about journalism is telling stories through video. When she is not in the newsroom, Joelle loves competitive dancing and reading.

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