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‘Heroic’: Teacher injured protecting students in Noblesville school shooting

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — We’re learning more about the teacher who students say stepped in to protect others in the classroom and was shot, along with a female student, Friday morning at Noblesville West Middle School. 

Family members and poilce said Jason Seaman, 29, was the teacher who was shot inside a classroom after a male student, later taken into custody, asked to be excused then came back in with two handguns. 

Seaman was taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital in critical condition. He was listed in good condition on Friday night.

A statement from the school district Seaman attended in Illinois said that Seaman’s heroic actions came “as no surprise to … those who know Jason”:

A school shooting occurred on the morning of Friday, May 25, 2018 at Noblesville West Middle School in Noblesville, Indiana. While there are no fatalities due to the shooting, Mahomet-Seymour High School alumnus Jason Seaman (class of 2007) was among the shooting victims. Reports and accounts regarding the shooting indicate that Jason’s actions likely saved and protected lives. His heroic actions come as no surprise to the Bulldog Nation and those who know Jason. We continue to keep Jason and his family in our thoughts and prayers as he recovers from this tragic event, as well as all of the communities impacted by school violence.

When asked during a Friday afternoon press conference about more details into what authorities called the staff’s heroism, Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said, “When we can tell that story, you’ll be proud, too.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer sent a statement following that press conference, where she praised the school staff, saying they “stayed calm, showed courage and followed out safety protocols.”

She also provided resources for teacher and students affected by the violence and announced that school would resume “as normal” on Tuesday at all other district schools, while Noblesville West Middle School would be open Saturday and Monday for counseling only: 

Parents and Staff-

I am still processing my emotions about today’s terrible tragedy and I know you must all be as well.

I met this afternoon with the victims and their families and want you to know that Noblesville Schools is standing by to provide them support in whatever way we can. The families expressed to me that they appreciate the outpouring of love and support they have received today.  

We have provided counseling support for West teachers this afternoon and have more counseling planned for this weekend.

On Saturday May 26 and Monday May 28 we will offer counseling for all district teachers/staff from 10AM-2PM at NHS (gate 1) and for all district parents/students from 1PM-3PM at NHS (gate 1).

Additionally, parents, staff and students can call a Hoosier crisis counseling hotline at 1-800-985-5990 or access counseling resources, including how to discuss tragedy with children, at http://i-cart.org/resources/

All events throughout the district have been cancelled for this weekend. The baseball sectional championship will be moved to another location.  

On Tuesday May 29 school will resume as normal at all schools except West. West will be open 10AM-2PM for counseling only and West students and families are encouraged to attend. Counselors will be on standby at all schools.

I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to our Noblesville West administrators, staff and students who stayed calm, showed courage and followed our safety protocols.

In addition, I would like to express my gratitude to the Noblesville Police Department, the Indiana State Police, the FBI, SWAT team, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Noblesville Fire Department, County Emergency Preparedness and all first responders who answered the call, collaborated and responded quickly and calmly. They have helped tremendously in dealing with this terrible situation.

Our elected officials, community leaders, business leaders and parents have also been lending support today and I’m so grateful for how we as a community have pulled together.

Thank you for your patience today as we worked to communicate information as quickly as we could in response to changing situations.

Please keep our injured school family members and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

Warmly,

Dr. Beth Niedermeyer

Seaman attended Southern Illinois University, where he played football, the university confirmed. 

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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