Friday, October 5, 2012

Too Close to Home: Students threatened at Ledyard High

Proud(?) alumni on the day we said goodbye to 'Yard High
Pictured above are some of my best friends and I in the middle of making our last meaningful memories at our Ledyard High School in summer 2007. The guys and I still hang out and if I'm not too mistaken our 5 year reunion should be coming up pretty soon.  Last week, news of the following story was posted by friend and fellow alumni, Zak Davis, and it's got me thrown for a real loop.
At 1:09 p.m. Tuesday, police arrested 18-year-old Ledyard High School student R--- L. D-------- after an investigation confirmed that he had threatened to harm students and then himself at Ledyard High School.
The police report says that “a concerned witness” informed an assistant principal that D--------- had plans to harm students at school. Evidence was found at his house that corroborated the concerned witnesses’ description. No weapons were found at the residence.
It’s been a tough year with these kinds of stories happening.  This July, news media was ablaze with images of an orange haired maniac calling himself the Joker and scores of copycats plaguing show times of “The Dark Knight Rises.”  In the south this spring, there were images of cannibalism on video and reports of zombie attacks all over Florida. In response to this, gun owners can now defend themselves against the undead with specifically designed “"Zombie" bullets; available in 9mm, .45 cal, and shotgun capable shells.  Just yesterday, a teen was arrested in Katy, Texas for posting plans online that detailed his intent to harm children in a nearby elementary school.

Even as events grew more and more grisly, until last week, I naively entertained the notion that while things were happening in the US, they weren't happening near me.  I shook my head when friends said they hadn't gone to see the new Batman movie because of what happened in Colorado and I joked about bath salts while crime labs analyzed the toxicity of Rudy Eugene’s body.  New England has been thankfully lacking stories like this in the past and it seemed the trend would continue indefinitely.  At least I’d hoped it would.

Interactive link here
I don’t have the luxury of ignorance anymore; you can’t get much closer to home than your high school alma mater.  The same hallways I used run laps around during track season are the same that this kid thought about when he began planning violence.  I've pooped where he pooped.

In as curious and creepy a move as I've ever made, I searched for the suspect on Facebook and found him though our high school network.  It’s hard to believe the neighbors of people like the Aurora shooter when they say things like “he was such a normal guy,” but looking at this kid’s profile it’d be hard to write anything different. Admittedly, listing John Dillinger, G.W. Bush and Robert E. Lee as inspirational figures must’ve raised a few eyebrows after the fact but nothing else jumps out on the public page.

My two youngest sisters are still in middle/high school and live in Ledyard.  They've both transferred from the home town school district to a private Catholic academy not far from the house but they could have just as easily been on track to graduate from LHS, like my other sister and myself, when all this happened last week.  That thought stops my blood cold.  The only consolation I take from the story above is that it hadn't progressed to a point where the suspect had access to weapons.

There’s no way for me to say what was going through this kid’s head before he got caught, that’d be impossible.  What I can speak to is LHS.  Even though it’s a medium to small sized school in semi-rural southeastern Connecticut I can remember being around for some doosies in the last 2 years before graduation. 

We've had brawls recorded then uploaded to Youtube and I can remember hearing about one catfight where silicone bra enhancers became dislodged during the scuffle and flopped onto the cafeteria floor with a soft “pfuft.”  I even saw the aftermath of the hallway the day the attempted manslaughter charge came down on someone in Katherine’s class.  A charge well deserved, anyone who was in school when the victim came back from the hospital will be able to tell you. Those lucky enough to have heard the “Jolly Rancher” story know that things can get weird in my part of the state.

Everything prior pales in comparison with the latest addition to LHS hallway lore.  Like I said before, I don’t know what was going on with this kid, but I’d hope that something could’ve been done to prevent things from getting this drastic.

This past fall I scored 2 free tickets to a CoolidgeCorner showing of the then controversial documentary “Bully.”  It’s an eye-opening and heart-wrenching but not entirely balanced, account of what happens actually happens the hallways of schools bigger than mine. In the film, or the Q&A after the credits, the topic of the recent trend of school focused violence was broached and discussed.  From what I remember, there wasn’t a clear answer addressing how to prevent these type of occurrences more than to promote empathy as early as possible.

I don’t know how much I can do personally to help prevent this type of violence from happening. That being said, when I walk down the hallways of LHS for the 5 year, and I find myself thinking about what could’ve happened, at least I’ll know did a little something to expand awareness somehow.  If you made it this far into the post, I thank you for following through and ask that maybe you do a little something nice to someone who looks like they need it.

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