Attorney to investigate ‘Defund the Police’ poster in classroom with fallen Elwood officer’s brother

The younger brother of Ofc. Noah Shahnavaz returned to class at Fishers H.S. to see a poster discussing the movement to defund police departments.
The school said the sign was a student’s research project from last year that dug into both...
The school said the sign was a student’s research project from last year that dug into both sides of the argument surrounding the defunding of police departments and that the poster was quickly removed.(Chalkboard Review)
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 3:17 PM EDT
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FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) - Administrators with Hamilton Southeastern Schools selected an attorney to investigate a situation where a “Defund the Police?” poster was in a classroom that the brother of a fallen police officer attended.

Elwood Police Ofc. Noah Shahnavaz was a Fishers native, graduating from Fishers High School in 2016. His younger brother still attends the high school.

Shahnavaz was shot and killed during a traffic stop on July 31.

Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz, 24, had been with the department for 11 months after...
Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz, 24, had been with the department for 11 months after serving five years in the U.S. Army.(Source: WTHR via CNN)

A school spokesperson told 13News when he returned to class, one of his teachers had a sign on her desk reading “Defund The Police?” A photo of the sign was provided to Chalkboard Review by a student who wishes to remain anonymous.

The school said the sign was a student’s research project from last year that dug into both sides of the argument surrounding the defunding of police departments and that the poster was quickly removed.

The school said they understand the impact was hurtful for individuals and they deeply regret the pain it caused, but they do allow teachers and students to examine relevant social issues in the classroom.

On Aug. 26, the district announced it had retained attorney Daniel E. Henke to “lead an independent inquiry” into the “student-directed assignment and poster.”

Henke is not charging for his work as part of the “fact-finding process.” His findings will be presented to the superintendent and the HSE Board of School Trustees.

The district provided the following background on Henke:

Henke currently serves as a municipal judge. He also was a chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Hamilton County for more than 18 years. Henke served as a town councilor for 11 years for the former Town of Fishers and is a volunteer for the HSE Schools “We the People” program.

The decision to bring in an attorney to investigate came during a meeting between Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Stokes and members of the Fishers Police Department, Indiana State Police, Fishers Fraternal Order of Police, Indiana Fraternal Order of Police and Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police.

Previous school and school board statements

The school sent the following statement about the incident to 13News:

“Our teachers strive to incorporate student-driven, relevant lessons into curriculum while meeting the academic standards as set by the Indiana Department of Education.

A student’s research project from the previous school year, listing the arguments both for and against the movement of “defunding the police” was left on display in a classroom at Fishers High School. As soon as the school was made aware of the issue, the concern was swiftly dealt with. However, we understand the impact was hurtful for individuals, and we deeply regret the pain it caused.

While we allow teachers and students to examine social issues that are relevant to their lives, we affirm publicly through our partnership with local law enforcement that we stand in solidarity of the men and women who willing face dangerous circumstances each day to keep us safe.”

The Board of School Trustees shared a statement also apologizing for the poster’s presence and affirmed a positive relationship with law enforcement:

“The Hamilton Southeastern Schools Board of School Trustees deeply regrets the pain that was caused due to a student-made research poster that was displayed in one of our high school classrooms. As a district we recognize our responsibility to provide a safe environment for students to learn and we failed to provide that in this case.Losing Officer Shahnavaz, a young alumnus of HSE Schools, who not only served his country selflessly, but was protecting others in his job as a police officer, was devastating. HSE has let the Shahnavaz family know how deeply sorry we are to have contributed to more heartache for them. The teacher involved has apologized as well, and is deeply remorseful for causing additional pain to her student and their family.HSE does not advocate for defunding the police. HSE works closely with the Fishers Police Department with the resource officers that are present in our buildings, the officers who help with traffic at our schools, and the officers who help monitor our community 24/7 to keep our students safe. We are and continue to be tremendously grateful for their service. Our students, staff and community are much safer because of our relationship with our police department.HSE Schools will use this experience as an example of how we can and must do better in the future to ensure all our students feel safe, accepted, and supported.”

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