Student in School Gun Incident Moved To Mental Facility

WHEELING – The 12-year-old Wheeling Middle School student arrested Friday after police found a loaded handgun in his locker has been transferred to a juvenile mental health facility.

Following a detention hearing held Friday evening, Magistrate Harry Radcliffe, who serves as Ohio County Circuit Court’s juvenile referee, ordered the boy be placed in the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Resources for placement in a mental health facility.

The order came with the joint recommendation of the prosecution and the boy’s defense attorney.

The case also has been transferred to circuit court after the juvenile waived his right to a preliminary hearing in magistrate court. He has been charged with possession of a firearm in school.

The Ohio County Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Friday to determine what disciplinary action will be taken against the student.

Superintendent Dianna Vargo said state law allows disciplinary hearings to be held behind closed doors, unless the student requests the proceedings be made public. That decision will be made prior to Friday’s hearing.

It is Ohio County Schools’ – thus, the taxpayers’ – responsibility to arrange alternative schooling for the student in the case of expulsion. Vargo did not comment on any possible alternative schooling options, saying the school system is “still working through the process.”

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. The West Virginia Department of Education and Ohio County Schools have a similar zero-tolerance policy in place.

Wheeling Middle students and parents told the school’s prevention resource officer, Sgt. John Schultz, that the boy brought a gun to the building as students were arriving around 8 a.m. Friday. Schultz and school staff quickly located the suspected student, and the gun was found in his locker.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger did not know how the boy got the gun, or why he brought it to school. Schultz could not be reached for comment.