Schools Silent on Gun Discipline

Ohio County Schools Superintendent Dianna Vargo on Friday declined to say if a 12-year-old boy who allegedly brought a loaded handgun to Wheeling Middle School last week has been expelled.

The Ohio County Board of Education held a special meeting at 8 a.m. Friday to address disciplinary action against the boy.

“The reason for these proceedings is to provide a student at Wheeling Middle School the opportunity for a hearing before the Ohio County Board of Education,” said Board President James Jorden.

“This hearing concerns the disciplining, suspension or expulsion of a student. As such, unless the student requests an open meeting, I will ask for a motion to enter into executive session.”

The board then looked to a group of about five or six of the student’s family members, as well as a priest, who were in attendance. The student himself did not attend. After the family declined to request a public hearing, board member Christine Carder moved to enter into the closed-door session. Board member Gary Kestner seconded the motion.

After about 10 minutes, board members returned from behind closed doors without announcing their decision and adjourned. The West Virginia Ethics Commission in 2005 found that student disciplinary matters may be considered and decided behind closed doors.

Jorden referred any questions following the meeting to Vargo, who declined to comment.

The family, as well as Wheeling Middle School Principal Rich McCardle and the school’s prevention resource officer, Sgt. John Schultz, were present during the meeting. Assistant Public Defender James Tiu also attended the closed-door portion of the meeting.

Schultz said after the meeting that police have not determined why the student allegedly brought the weapon to school on Sept. 13, and the investigation remains ongoing. He added that he does not “even have access to” the boy.

Ohio County Magistrate Harry Radcliffe last week ordered the boy be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Resources for placement in a juvenile mental health facility.

The Gun Free Schools Act states that schools receiving federal aid must expel a student who is determined to have brought a gun to school for a period of not less than one year. Ohio County Schools and the West Virginia Department of Education have a similar zero-tolerance policy in place.

Other students and parents told Schultz the boy may have brought a gun to the building as students were arriving around 8 a.m. Schultz and school staff quickly located the suspected student, and the gun was found in his locker. He has been charged with possession of a firearm in school.