May 24, 2019

One Year Later: Noblesville West Middle School Shooting

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Noblesville West Middle School students are reunited with parents at Noblesville High School following the May 25, 2018 shooting.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Noblesville West Middle School students are reunited with parents at Noblesville High School following the May 25, 2018 shooting.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Most Americans are now familiar with the events that typically follow a school shooting. Shock and outrage, followed by calls for action, but few policies are changed. One year after a shooting left a student and teacher injured, some activists and parents wonder if the aftermath of Noblesville West Middle School fits this same story.

Noblesville parent Steve Rogers says he remembers the events of that day well.

“And my phone rang and I saw that it was my son and that's unusual from a eighth grader that they'd be calling, so when I answered the phone, the first thing he said was I'm OK but there was a shooter at the school,” Rogers says.

This shooting at Noblesville West Middle School sent ripples through the state.

Gov. Eric Holcomb gave thousands of free metal detectors to nearly every Indiana school district.

In November, a video taken by the 13-year-old shooter was played to a courtroom. In it he said he wanted to kill his classmates. A judge sent him to a juvenile correction facility. That same month, Noblesville schools passed a $50 million referenda to support mental health services and school safety.

In December, a second school shooting in Richmond, Indiana. The shooter took his own life and no one else was hurt.

School safety was called a top priority for policymakers when the legislative session started in January.

READ MORE: 2019 Legislative Wrap-Up: School Safety Bills

Now, one year later, activists, parents and state leaders are asking if enough has been accomplished. Steve Rogers, the Noblesville dad, is also an activist with Noblesville Stands Together. He says his son hasn’t said much about that day.

“The one thing that he did say that stuck with both my wife and I was – he did say that, I just hope that people won't forget about this,” Rogers says.

Lawmakers recently increased school security grants by $5 million a year and made it easier for small school districts to apply to receive funds.

But earlier this month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick says the funds created by the state legislature this session likely won’t be enough.

“I think it will be a problem because although we have a little bit more funds,” McCormick says. “And you know, and again, we appreciate any new funds, that you have a pool of applicants that just got much larger. And so we're concerned with that.”

That bill’s author Rep. Wendy McNamara (R-Evansville) proposed several school safety related bills.

"We provided school corporations with flexibility in dollars that they didn't have before. So will there be somebody saying that's not enough? Yes,” McNamara says. “But is that an accurate statement saying that we didn't do anything? No.”

But she also says there’s more to do. She wants to see required participation in a Centers for Disease Control youth risk behavior survey to collect data that districts and the state can use to build more robust mental health services, and she wants to create additional funds to support those services too.

A year after the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, parent Alexa Griffith says she still remembers that day.

“Wow, it's even hard to put it towards even this long ago. It was. It was devastating and numbing, and fearful,” Griffith says.

Griffith spent the legislative session leading the priorities for Indiana’s chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. After the session she says, “I felt very frustrated. And, to be honest, a little bit abandoned.”

She says in some ways the legislative response is similar the response after other shootings, but she says it's more complicated.

“People seem to be stepping up because they've watched the process fail,” Griffith says. “I've seen the students step up. I think that we will see more people stepping up into decision making roles, running for different offices to try to affect policy at some sort of level, and then maybe working their way up to the legislature.”

The Noblesville school district declined media interviews.

Griffith says she’s seen the Noblesville community change, and open a conversation about gun safety.

Rogers says school shootings created a new generation of children.

“And not just in Noblesville, but nationwide, who go to school, and on any given day, the thought is in their mind that I might have to find a place to hide today, if someone comes in my classroom to try to shoot me,” Rogers says. “That is a shocking failure of our society, we have to do better. That is not the world that we want our kids to live in.”

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