Parents, principal respond to Carmel HS shooting threat rumor

(WISH Photo)

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The principal of Carmel High School has said that rumors of a threat of violence at the school have been deemed not credible.

Dr. Tom Harmas, principal at Carmel High School, said that officers with the Carmel Police Department and school administrators looked into the rumors.

“This has been investigated by the school administration and Carmel Police Department and has been deemed no threat to our students or staff,” said Harmas in a video statement released at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Harmas explained that before the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida Wednesday, a Carmel High School student posted a video showing off ammunition magazines. That video went viral within the school body and many students believed it was a threat.

Harmas says a rumor then began that a mass shooting was planned for a school convocation Friday, when all 5,000+ students at CHS would be present. Parents began calling the district and police department with questions, and when news of the Florida shootings hit Wednesday evening, parents said the situation suddenly looked much darker.

Kathy Kiggings said she first heard about the supposed threats Wednesday from her daughter who attends CHS. Her daughter texted her saying she would not go to school Friday because she was worried about the threat.

“I called the school and the person I spoke to said I wasn’t the first. Hundreds of parents had called and it was literally chaos this morning,” she explained. Kiggins decided to keep her daughter home from school Thursday.

“I don’t feel comfortable. God forbid I send her and something does happen,” said Kiggins.

Thursday morning’s video reached Kiggins and other CHS parents via email. It was quickly shared along social media platforms.

“A threat was never made,” Harmas says clearly. “Ladies and gentlemen there is not a convocation on Friday and there has never been a convocation scheduled for Friday. Never.”

Harmas also addresses recent issues at Carmel High School, including an alleged stabbing incident in a bathroom last week and two fights at CHS Tuesday.

“Now everyone take a second to breathe,” he concluding, taking a deep breath himself. “We are all OK and looking out for one another. We will move forward. That is what makes Carmel High School a special place for everyone.”

Response to the video message was mixed, with some parents saying it calmed their and their childrens’ fears, and others saying it was condescending and uninformative. Kiggins wasn’t impressed.

“How is that not a threat? I just don’t get it,” she said. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”

Several parents say CHS didn’t answer their questions with the video, and some accuse the district of ignoring drama on their doorstep to protect their reputation.

“I would like to believe that when I send my kid to school, she’s going to be safe,” said Kiggins. “And we’re not trying to cover our behind and our name. That shouldn’t matter.”

Kiggins is a Carmel High School graduate herself and likes the school district but worries that something is off.

“My daughter just said this year it’s just different. She’s like it’s just different, Mom,” she said.

Other CHS students 24 Hour News Eight spoke to Thursday agreed, saying the students are becoming more and more paranoid, and that the last two weeks have been markedly different than previous years.

Carmel High School officials released another statement Thursday afternoon, addressing two more incidents at CHS. The first involved a student yelling “gun” loudly in the cafeteria and students running for the exit, and the other a student who brought a knife onto Carmel High School property. Principal Harmas says no one was in danger in either incident.

Read his statement below:

Good afternoon parents,

I wanted to bring to your attention an incident that happened today in the lunch room in which a student with special needs had a behavioral struggle.  Trained staff engaged in a crisis prevention institute approved physical restraint to keep the student safe as well as all other students safe. When students saw what was taking place and were unsure of the situation, they immediately went into their school safety training and began evacuating the building. There was never a threat to student or staff safety, nor was a student in possession of a gun. Within a matter of minutes, students and staff were brought back into the building to resume classes as normal.

 In a separate incident, thanks to our students following our “see something say something philosophy,” staff was alerted to a student who was in possession of a knife.  Administration and SROs quickly responded and took the student into custody.  At no time were students ever threatened with the knife.   

We understand the accumulation of rumors and the very recent tragedy of a school shooting in Florida has made students, parents and the community feel a sense of unease, concern and worry. While we know parent and student anxiety is high, we assure you we work closely with the Carmel Police Department, as well as our first responders at a county and state level to ensure the safety of all those on our campuses and in our buildings. We continue to make the safety of our students, employees and visitors a top priority.

Counselors and social workers, along with our teachers and Student Resource Officers provide support and care for students who may be feeling fearful or anxious. It’s important to know students have a positive outlet to express these concerns and we ask that we all work together as a community to address these concerns.

I wanted to share with you some of the ways in which we work to ensure a safe learning environment:

When a safety concern arises, our team thoroughly reviews the incident to determine what, if any, adjustments may be needed for the safety of our students and staff.  Below I have listed some of the safety measures currently in place at Carmel Clay Schools:

  • ALL staff in all of our Carmel Clay Schools are trained in safety procedures and protocols on a regular basis
  • CHS has four Carmel Police Department officers in the building (SROs) during the school day; all elementary and middle schools have assigned SROs
  • ALL staff and students are familiar with our ALICE training program certification (https://www.alicetraining.com/our-program/alice-training/)
  • ALL staff and students participate in safety drills and scenario based drills on a monthly basis
  • Carmel Police Department and Carmel Clay Schools collaborate and review each school’s safety plans on a regular basis
  • All schools have all exterior doors locked during the school day and all individuals that enter the school must be checked in through our school security software, SchoolGate Guardian.
  • Carmel Clay Schools offers Anonymous Alert, an electronic reporting system located in MyCCS in which students and parents can anonymously report safety concerns.

Thank you,
Tom Harmas
Principal
Carmel High School

Dr. Harmas’ video and text statements from Thursday morning are below.

Good morning everyone.  I know the events of the last few weeks have put some of us on edge and to help all of us I wanted to tell you the facts instead of you reading rumors on social media.

So, let’s look at some of the things that have occurred.

  1. A young boy accosted a girl with a paring knife in a bathroom.This has been dealt with by the school and Carmel Police Department in an appropriate manner. There were no injuries and the student and was apprehended within minutes. As a matter of fact, the young lady has not missed a day of school.
  2. There were 2 altercations on Tuesday.The first lasted literally 2 seconds and the second lasted 1.5 seconds before staff members stepped in.So this was a total of 2 altercations lasting a combined 3.5 seconds.Again, the school and Carmel Police Department dealt with these issues appropriately.
  3. Yesterday, we were made aware by students of a rumor of a possible school shooting.This rumor started due to a text strand between a group of students.To paraphrase, they were talking about the past two weeks’ events and then a student wrote that he didn’t want something like a school shooting to happen.Another wrote to a friend that a dangerous time would be when all the students are in a convocation.Then others chimed in saying “let’s talk about good things” and they began to write about puppies.
  4. From there the rumor mill went to “there is going to be a school shooting at Friday’s convocation.” To be clear, a threat was never made. Ladies and gentlemen, there is not a convocation on Friday and there has never been a convocation scheduled on Friday.NEVER.
  5. Some of you have shared with us or have seen a video of one of our students showing off ammo magazines.This has been investigated by the school administration and Carmel Police Department and has been deemed no threat to our staff or students.

We appreciate students, staff, parents and the community’s willingness to report events.  We believe in “See Something, Say Something.”  Because of this, we have been able to investigate each event, even before most of you knew what was happening.  Social media, when used incorrectly, can be damaging to people.  Always remember to use this only in a responsible manner.

We have been working closely with Carmel Police Department to ensure the safety of everyone in this building.

We are a Greyhound family and we have always taken care of one another and we always will.

Now everyone take a second to breathe.  We are all OK and looking out for one another.  We will move forward.  That is what makes Carmel High School a special place for everyone.

Thank you!
Dr. Tom Harmas, Principal