Students return to Noblesville West Middle School following shooting

Photo courtesy WRTV from May 25

By RICK CALLAHAN, Associated Press

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Comfort dogs, principals and counselors greeted students Wednesday as they returned to Noblesville West Middle School five days after officials say a male student shot and wounded a 13-year-old classmate and a teacher.

More than a dozen school buses sat idling, parked side by side outside the school, before the bus doors opened and students streamed toward school entrances Wednesday morning. Some parents opted to drive their children to school for their first day back since the May 25 shooting.

Noblesville Schools spokesman Marnie Cooke said the counselors and principals from several local school districts were there "to provide more familiar faces" for returning students. Cooke said the school day would be shorter than usual through Friday — the end of the school year — so officials can focus on counseling students still shaken by the shooting.

At least three police vehicles were visible from a subdivision entrance across the street, where television crews and reporters watched the youngsters' return. The school has about 1,300 students enrolled in grades six through eight.

Science teacher Jason Seaman has been hailed for tackling the shooter who seriously wounded 13-year-old Ella Whistler. She remained hospitalized in Indianapolis, although school officials said her condition was improving.

Witnesses said Seaman, a 29-year-old former college football player, ran toward bullets as he confronted the armed student. Seaman was shot but not seriously injured.

Cooke said Seaman wasn't at the school as students returned Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they must wait until charges are filed in the shooting before releasing information about the student. Officials say the boy was armed with two handguns when he opened fire inside Seaman's classroom.

Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Indiana law protects the privacy of juveniles accused of crimes and limits what information can be released. Buckingham said authorities cannot confirm the suspect's identity or describe the alleged offense until a charging petition is filed.

Under Indiana law, any suspects age 13 and younger must be tried as juveniles if they are accused of anything other than murder, said Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council.

Juveniles must be at least 14 years old to be tried as an adult on serious crimes such as attempted murder charges, he said.

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