Northridge High School is on high alert after an 18-year-old male student reportedly brought a handgun to school.
Superintendent Jane Allen says the teen, a recent transfer student, displayed the weapon Friday in the school cafeteria. Three days later, during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, two parents called Middlebury Community Schools’ administrative offices to report the alleged criminal act. A sit-down meeting was held and school leaders subsequently banned the teen from the high school, pending an ongoing police investigation.
"I’m really upset that someone would make a dangerous situation for everyone. Even if it wasn't to do some harm, just the fact that someone would carry a firearm. Something could have happened, accidentally even, it's just not the way we do things now,” Supt. Allen said during an exclusive interview with NewsCenter 16.
By all accounts, Northridge High School is an affluent, refreshingly safe educational community, made up of roughly 1300 students. However this startling situation has forced district leaders to question their self-professed innocence.
"I was surprised because it's unexpected for our school district. That does not happen in our school district. It's not that we think it won't, it's just that it never has and that's what surprised us,” Supt. Allen added.
The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, which staffs a school resource officer at Northridge, is leading the police investigation. Their digging has included reviewing dozens of school surveillance cameras, interviewing eyewitnesses and collecting written statements. If the original report is substantiated, school officials and police say an arrest will be made.
"What we do now is make sure that student does not return to our building to make it unsafe for our kids. We do that by watching for him, by paying attention to areas of the building where someone could come in unannounced, like a student letting him in or whatever. So we have people paying attention,” Supt. Allen, a 33-year veteran of the district, remarked.
In her three-decade career with Middlebury Schools, Supt. Allen says the worst weapons offense she can remember; a forgetful Boy Scout bringing a pocket-knife to class. Despite the district’s peaceful culture, all nine buildings restrict building access, utilize surveillance cameras and frequently train students and staff for the unforeseen.
"I think the most important part is that parents understand we are not going to lessen our security because of our location; that's never going to happen. We’re also not going to be complacent because of our location. We might think things are fine, and we hope they are fine, but that doesn't mean we are going to act like it,” Supt. Allen said.
According to Indiana Code 20-33-8-16 and 35-47-9-2, no student can carry a “deadly weapon” on or in school property. That includes facilities used for school functions, school parking lots and school busses.
If caught with a “deadly weapon,” state law requires that the student be automatically expelled for one calendar school year. That's in addition to felony charges, the least of which being a Class D felony, carrying up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
"People will say, ‘well these are children.’ They are children, but if they make a mistake like this, it doesn't matter; they're going to suffer the consequences. It’s unfortunate because they'll never graduate with their class and they'll never be back with their peers. That's as harmful sometimes as the handcuffs on the wrists, sometimes it’s even more harmful,” Supt. Allen concluded.
It’s still unclear if the student-in-question displayed the handgun to gloat, intimidate or launch an attack. As for his disciplinary file, Middlebury Community Schools cannot publicly release records due to FERPA privacy laws.
NewsCenter 16 continues to follow this developing story and will issue an update if deputies arrest the unidentified 18-year-old student.