One year later: Reflecting on the year since the May 25, 2018 shooting at Noblesville West Middle School

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May 25 will mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School.

On that day, then-student David Moore, age 13 at the time, opened fire in the seventh-grade science classroom of Jason Seaman. Student Ella Whistler was shot seven times and Seaman three times before Moore was disarmed and tackled by Seaman, who has been lauded for stopping the shooting.

In November 2018, Moore admitted to the 11 counts against him —  including two counts of attempted murder — in juvenile court. He was sentenced to a juvenile detention center until age 18 or until he is considered rehabilitated by the Indiana Dept. of Corrections.

Since the time of the shooting, Noblesville Schools leadership has worked with students, parents and its staff to offer counseling services with the goal of healing and moving past the tragedy.

As a result, district officials said the one-year anniversary will not be commemorated in any way as they continue to support those who may need it.

“Mental health experts have advised us against memorializing the event, as it creates renewed trauma and stress for our school community as we continue to heal from this painful experience,” Noblesville Schools leadership said in a statement. “Based on this advice, we are not planning or supporting any anniversary events.”

Instead, district officials said their mental health experts are acknowledging the anniversary and offering support as May 25 nears because it is common for anniversary dates of traumatic events to “reactivate thoughts and feelings from the event.”

“Students may experience increased anxiety and depression during this time,” the statement continued. “This is a natural part of the healing process…We will continue to offer counseling services to students, parents and staff members in need…We are encouraging the Noblesville community to use the weekend of May 25 to reflect on how we can continue to foster the remarkable support for one another that blossomed following our adversity.”

Community members hold hands during the May 26, 2018, prayer vigil at Federal Hill Commons.

A CHANGED DISTRICT

In one year, the safety landscape has changed at Noblesville Schools. With some safety changes already planned before May 25, the district has implemented several initiatives related to mental health and physical safety and security changes in its buildings, from an increased police presence to new equipment to enhanced counseling programs and increased staff.

In November 2018, voters passed an operating referendum that will help fund the district through 2026 with an additional $6.25 million annually, 53 percent of which will be used for mental health and safety. The other 47 percent is being used for teacher and staff retention and recruitment.

The district has compiled a list of the implemented initiatives focused on enhancing safety district-wide. Safety and security measures account for $1.75 million in referendum dollars, and $1.57 million is being used for mental health changes and improvements. To see the comprehensive list, visit bit.ly/2YlAAPO.

Ella Whistler throws the first pitch at Noblesville Youth Baseball’s opening day ceremony April 12.

A CHANGED STATE

The Indiana General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session wrapped up last month and introduced a slew of law changes related to school safety. Of the 23 bills introduced in the House and Senate, 11 died in committee.

A mother and daughter hold hands during the May 26, 2018, prayer vigil at Federal Hill Commons.

House Bill 1004 originally included language to increase funding for physical “hardening” of schools, including school resource officers, and mental health initiatives. However, in final meetings for the bill, all mental health language was removed. The bill still passed and provides increased access to state-level grants for building-safety improvements.

Senate Bill 359 was signed into law May 5 and requires the division of mental health and addiction to establish a standard format for individualized mental health safety plans. The bill also requires the health care provider to attempt to get consent from the patient to report his or her mental health safety plan to a school or other program in which the patient is taking part. An amendment to the bill allows providers to report the plan if the patient is considered a danger to themselves or others.

On April 18, House Bill 1225 was signed into law. The bill allows schools to apply for a grant that covers initial set-up costs for an active event warning system and requires guidelines of the Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security to include information on universal electronic access to a school property for law enforcement access and access to closed-circuit cameras to be used in an emergency situation.

House Bill 1398 was signed into law May 5. It permits a law enforcement agency to share private investigatory records with a school corporation for the purpose of enhancing the safety of a student or school facility, without losing the discretion to keep the records confidential from other records requesters. 

From left, NWMS teacher Jason Seaman, NWMS nurse Megan Schlueter and NWMS school resource officer Michael Steffen are recognized by the Noblesville Police Dept. earlier this year for their heroic work during the May 25 shooting.

HONORING HEROES

Throughout the year, teacher Jason Seaman has been hailed as the hero of the community. With his quick action that stopped the shooting, he is credited with saving the lives of students and staff. He continues to be honored by the community.

Jason Seaman receives the Noblesville Fire Dept. Citizen Certificate of Recognition from NFD Chief Greg Wyant.

Seaman has been presented with the Noblesville Sunrisers Kiwanis Club’s Robert P. Connelly Medal of Heroism, the Noblesville Police Dept. Distinguished Citizen Service Award, the Noblesville Fire Dept. Citizen Certificate of Recognition, the Indiana Pacers’ Indiana Hero Award and was honored a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Eric Holcomb. In addition, he was recognized along with other first responders March 26 by the Indiana General Assembly with Senate Concurrent Resolution 43, which honored the work done on May 25, 2018, by all first responders of the shooting. Most recently, Seaman won a cruise and $15,000 for NWMS through Norwegian Cruise Line’s Giving Joy campaign. District officials said the money will be used for teacher recognition.

Megan Schlueter, the nurse at NWMS, also has been recognized in the past year for providing lifesaving care to Whistler within moments of the shooting. Schlueter, a Riverview Health employee, was presented the health care organization’s Daisy Award, given quarterly to a nurse who goes above and beyond normal responsibilities. A few months later, she designated Caregiver of the Year by the Indiana Hospital Association. In February, she also was given the Noblesville Police Dept.’s Distinguished Citizen Service Award, alongside Seaman.

HOW TO HELP

Although events aren’t planned to memorialize the shooting, district officials are encouraging those who want to help to take part in two upcoming events.

From 3 to 7 p.m. May 25, NWMS student Adam Eberhart will host a blood drive in The Green Room at Federal Hill Commons, 175 Logan St., Noblesville. The drive is an Eagle Scout service project for Eberhart and is being conducted in honor of NWMS. To sign up to donate blood, contact leberhart@comcast.net.

Also this weekend, SERVE Noblesville, a seasonal service project initiative and organization that helps beautify the city each summer, will play host to community members in a new campaign, “Come Together,” May 24-27. The event has the goal of connecting neighbors to increase a sense of belonging and respect. To learn more, visit servenoblesville.com/cometogether.

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