Hamilton Southeastern Schools announced Aug. 26 that Supt. Yvonne Stoles has selected local attorney Daniel E. Henke to lead an independent inquiry into a recent incident at Fishers High School involving a student assignment.
When the younger brother of fallen Elwood Police Dept. Officer Noah Shahnavaz returned to classes as a student at FHS following Shahnavaz’s death, he encountered a sign in a classroom that read “Defund the Police?” on his first day back.
Officer Shahnavaz was a Fishers native and 2016 FHS graduate who was fatally shot during a July 31 traffic stop.
School officials said the poster was from a research project made by a student that looked at the pros and cons of defunding the police. The poster was removed from the classroom, and the school district and school board released statements apologizing for the incident.
According to information sent from the school district, Stokes recommended the independent inquiry after meeting with other HSE administrators and meeting with Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, Fishers Police Dept. Chief Ed Gebhart, Chris Owens of the Fishers Fraternal Order of Police, Indiana State Police Supt. Doug Carter, William Owensby of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police and Rick Snyder of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police.
Henke isn’t charging for the inquiry and will provide a report with its findings to the HSE Board of School Trustees.
Henke is serving as a municipal judge and a volunteer for the HSE “We the People” program. He previously served as a chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County for more than18 years and was on the former Fishers Town Council for 11 years.
HSE school board of trustees issued an apology Aug. 20 that, in part, reads:
“The Hamilton Southeastern Schools Board of School Trustees deeply regrets the pain that was caused due to a student-made research poster that was displayed in one of our high school classrooms. As a district we recognize our responsibility to provide a safe environment for students to learn and we failed to provide that in this case.
Losing Officer Shahnavaz, a young alumnus of HSE Schools, who not only served his country selflessly, but was protecting others in his job as a police officer, was devastating. HSE has let the Shahnavaz family know how deeply sorry we are to have contributed to more heartache for them. The teacher involved has apologized as well, and is deeply remorseful for causing additional pain to her student and their family.
HSE does not advocate for defunding the police…HSE Schools will use this experience as an example of how we can and must do better in the future to ensure all our students feel safe, accepted, and supported.”
However Fishers One, a grassroots, community based, organization, have pushed back on HSE after this incident, stating the school needs to focus more on academics.
““This incident, along with many others over recent years, reiterates exactly what our organization has been hearing since our inception,” Diane Eaton of Fisher’s One stated. “The community has lost confidence with the Hamilton Southeastern School District, with its direction, and lack of focus on education. We are supporting four new board candidates this fall to change that around. Tiffany Pascoe, Juanita Albright, Dawn Lang, and Ben Orr are committed to getting HSE Schools back to the core of education, parental involvement, and administrative accountability.”
The group also said that school should be a place for education, not activism and is promoting election of new board members in the Nov. 8 election.