INDIANAPOLIS — Two students were arrested after two loaded handguns were found in backpacks Tuesday at the Chapel Hill 7th and 8th Grade Center, according to MSD of Wayne Township school officials.
Officials at the school, located on the same property as several other MSD of Wayne Township Buildings, including Ben Davis High School, were alerted by a student that there may possibly be a weapon on campus.
District officials confirm the school’s safety plan was immediately implemented when they were made aware of the information.
In a letter sent home to parents, school officials said, during the initial investigation, school administration found a loaded handgun in a student’s backpack. That student was immediately arrested.
“We immediately involved the Wayne Township School Police and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in the investigation,” the school’s principal wrote.
“Any time we get a call, whether it’s a threat to a school, whether it’s information we receive through various outlets, whenever we get a call and it pertains to our children, or it pertains to the school, it definitely heightens our sense of awareness,” said Samone Burris, public information officer for IMPD.
Upon further investigation, school officials said it was revealed a second student also had a loaded gun in their backpack; that student was also arrested.
“Our officers, in coordination with the school, made it there to that school and began an investigation as to if those children even had weapons at the school. It was discovered they did and unfortunately two juveniles were arrested,” said Burris.
According to an IMPD incident report, the two juveniles arrested were 13 and 14-year-old boys. It has not been confirmed by officials whether the two are connected.
“It’s terrifying to know that our children at a very young age can have access to these types of weapons,” said Burris. “It is very heartbreaking to know that they don’t have the education on board to understand what the end result can be if you do use those weapons.”
“It’s very disturbing,” said Terry Parran, a parent of an MSD of Wayne Township student. He told CBS4 he learned of the incident when we told him Wednesday afternoon.
“It really troubles me and I’m very concerned because it seems like it’s getting more and more out of control the more you hear,” said Parran.
Some other parents CBS4 spoke with Wednesday said they were glad to hear no students were injured. Two parents said they weren’t surprised to hear of something like this happening.
School officials confirmed at no point were any lockdowns, externally or internally, needed, because their safety plan functioned as designed to protect the safety of students and staff.
A spokesperson for the district said each school has its own safety plan that follows a district template, which was developed and approved by the MSD of Wayne Township Security Council, which includes police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and mental health counselors.
“The partnership we have with these agencies and organizations is a key component of our school safety efforts,” said a district spokesperson, who explained, their school safety plans cover a wide variety of scenarios. There are also school resource officers in all of the district’s secondary schools, a spokesperson confirmed.
“It is very important that our school districts and our police department works together because this is the only way that we can ensure our students say safe as well as the staff and faculty at those schools stay safe as well,” Burris said.
Burris said the ongoing communication and planning between school districts and IMPD is important for several reasons.
“Schools have different entrances and exits so it is very important that the schools work with us so that when our officers arrive, we know where we can go to get into the building safely,” said Burris. “We know how we can get in and out of the building if an evacuation is needed.”
IMPD hopes this incident opens a bigger conversation in the community.
“It is incumbent upon our community that we get together and we continue to educate our children, we continue to educate the families about gun violence and gun safety so that our children understand that when they see a toy, it is not something you play with, it is not something you show your friends. It’s not something you take to school,” said Burris.
“It puts yourself in danger and you put others in danger. It creates a potential risk for people to lose their lives when guns are involved,” Burris added.
Parran said he agrees.
“I think it calls for a deeper conversation just as a community at whole with parents. You can talk to children, but children are children,” said Parran.
Burris said a top priority is always making sure that children are safe and feel safe at school and she encourages parents and children to discuss resources they can seek if they have a safety concern, or any concern, for that matter.
“It is, hopefully right, the beginning of a conversation for these juveniles to understand the importance of using the resources at school if something is happening or you feel like you can’t talk to your parents, talk to your counselors at school, talk to your friends or your friend’s parents,” she said.
“Contact us at all costs. Whenever you feel like you’re in a situation and you need protection or someone to just talk things out, we are available for that,” said Burris. “We are here for our community and we want our children to know, we’re not only here to make arrests, we’re here to have those important conversations as well.”
Burris said the student who alerted authorities at school of a possible weapon on school grounds is doing exactly what she would encourage any community member to do if they see something that might be off.
“This is a great example of what happens – a potential crime could have been prevented,” she said. “The courage behind anybody willing to come forward with information that could potentially save lives is very courageous and we continue to encourage our community to do the same.”
It’s not clear at this time whether either of the teens are facing charges in connection to the incident.
At this time, the investigation is active and ongoing.