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A school fight, a gun, and a Michigan community demands action

outside high school
Students, parents and staff at East Lansing High School are demanding action to curb increased violence at the school. ( T-I /
  • Behavioral issues have increased since returning to in-person learning 
  • In East Lansing, a teacher breaking up a fight saw a gun drop from a student's backpack
  • Teachers want more authority to discipline students 

School threats and increased incidents of violence — including a gun dropped near a teacher — are raising fears among students and staff at East Lansing High School. 

The school of 1,217 students, located one mile north of Michigan State University and serving the children of some MSU faculty and staff, was closed Friday because of ongoing threats of violence, following a week of unrest.  The district will hold a public meeting about school safety Monday evening.


The incidents at the mid-Michigan school and the community blowback highlight growing frustrations among students, parents and school staff across Michigan with behavioral issues and school threats that have soared since schools returned to normal schedules post-COVID. 


“We know that coming out of the pandemic, students are dealing with more issues related to social adjustment [and] emotional well-being,” said Robert McCann, executive director for the K-12 Alliance of Michigan. 

School threats that lead to lockdowns have increased dramatically since the pandemic and following a school shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021 left four students dead. Behavioral issues have jumped, also, with school officials saying elementary students who’d been isolated during the pandemic are struggling to learn how to play with each other again.

School officials have struggled to find a balance between increased safety and trying not to turn schools into prisons.

East Lansing High School students staged a walk-out followed by a protest outside of the school on Thursday. Parents and teachers joined them, demanding that the East Lansing Board of Education address concerns about behavior they say has created an unsafe learning environment. 

A week earlier, there were reports that a student accidentally dropped a gun in front of a teacher. The alleged incident happened during a fight that occurred after a Jan. 19 basketball game between East Lansing and DeWitt High School. 

High school math teacher Madelyn Zink helped break up the fight that included nearly a dozen students, according to a report by East Lansing Info. 

“To be completely frank with you I am still frozen in the moment and it feels like it never ended,” Zink told the school board Jan. 23, in a recording of a meeting reviewed by Bridge Michigan. 

The students involved in the fight were back in school the following day despite the superintendent being informed about the event, she said. Some of those students renewed their fight in school that day.

School officials informed East Lansing and Meridian Township police of a student having a firearm. That student is not permitted into the school building for the rest of the semester, and is taking classes online, according to East Lansing Info. 

Superintendent Dori Leyko was criticized during the meeting for not informing parents about the incident, and apologized for not communicating more.

In the Jan. 23 school board meeting, community members and students said the incident was just the latest in a series of events that make students and faculty members feel unsafe.


“If God forbid we were ever faced with an active shooter situation, I can’t imagine what we would do,” senior Graham Flynn said at the meeting. “If these fist fights are getting out of control, imagine what we would do then?” 

Some community members and the school’s student council have called for the resignation of School Board President Kath Edsall following what they termed “dismissiveness and lack of professionalism” during the school board meeting, and called for more severe consequences and more mental health resources to be offered to staff and students impacted by acts of violence. 

“The degree of permissiveness our district demonstrates with regard to student discipline has become completely untenable,” said Timothy Akers, a high school English teacher, during the school board meeting. 

“The district's actions have been performative at best,” he said.

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