Milford High students are more aware than ever of the potential for gun violence at school, following last week's murder of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Today, police and school officials said that heightened awareness likely prompted the tip that led to a 16-year-old student being arrested Monday for bringing a loaded shotgun onto school grounds.
"I definitely think it played a part," said School Resource Officer Joey Melvin, who was told about the potential presence of a weapon immediately after leaving a meeting in which he and district officials had just finished reviewing the crisis response plan in place at each of Milford's seven public schools. "These types of incidents like what happened in Connecticut have an effect on all of us, from the student body to the staff and parents, and I'm sure that came into play in this situation."
Officers soon located the loaded 20-guage shotgun and additional ammunition in the student's vehicle, which was parked in the school's student lot.
The teen, whose name has not been released, was later arraigned on multiple criminal charges, including carrying a concealed deadly weapon, possession of firearm in safe school zone and possession of an unlawfully loaded shotgun. He later was released to the custody of his parents on a $20,200 unsecured bond.
He is now facing potential expulsion and must undergo a mental evaluation and wear an electronic monitoring device, according to police and school officials.
"It's very worrisome that this happened, especially because there may be other cases like this out there that we just don't know about," Milford school board president Patrick Emory said Tuesday.
Emory echoed a statement made by Milford Superintendent Phyllis Kohel on Monday that the student may have been hunting over the weekend and simply forgot to unpack his shotgun before heading off to school.
"There is a lot of hunting going on this time of year, but you've got to be cognizant of your surroundings," he said. "I'm not sure whether it's just because we hear about school shootings more these days, but it seems like they're happening more often, which is why it's so important that people be cognizant of their surroundings, whether they're at a school or a mall."
In the meantime, Milford police are stepping up their presence at all the city's public schools this week in an effort to provide students and parents with comfort and security before the winter break.
"We're definitely making it a point to be more visible at all our schools, inside and out, given what's happened in Connecticut," Milford Police Detective Dwight Young said. "We want everyone from students to staff to parents to feel safe on school grounds."
Page 2 of 2 - Emory said he agrees, which is why he said he finds Monday's incident troubling.
"When you send your kids to school you expect them to be safe," he said. "Unfortunately, things like what happened in Connecticut last week, and to some extent what we had here on Monday, make you question that and that's a shame. But I assure you we are doing everything we can to make sure our schools are a safe place for our students."