Vo-Tech student expelled for 1 year

EBENSBURG – The 16-year-old Admiral Peary Vo-Tech student who took a 9 mm handgun to school Jan. 24 will be expelled for a year, school officials confirmed Wednesday.

Vo-Tech Executive Director Ken Jubas said the student, his grandmother and school officials met Wednesday morning following a half-hour criminal hearing at the Juvenile Detention Center to discuss the student’s expulsion.

“He will be expelled for one calendar year starting now,” Jubas said, adding that neither the student nor his grandmother disputed any of the facts presented in the expulsion and criminal hearings.

The student was accused of stealing the handgun from an unnamed relative and taking it to the school for protection. He said he feared he was going to be attacked by another student.

He hid the weapon in his waistband, where administrators discovered and removed it without incident.

He was automatically suspended for 10 days pending the hearing.

The vo-tech board will officially approve the expulsion at a meeting later this month, Jubas said, and it is expected Blacklick Valley school board also will approve it.

Blacklick Valley officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday evening.

Jubas also said Cambria County Judge David Tulowitzki waived disposition of the criminal case to Westmoreland County, the student’s original residence, because there are “some issues there.”

Jubas said because the student is a juvenile, he could not confirm whether those issues involve criminal charges.

The student originally is from Westmoreland County and transferred to Blacklick Valley last year, Jubas said.

Jubas also said while he hopes gun scares won’t become the norm, the incident sent an important message to administration and staff to re-examine security procedures.

Some changes may be coming soon.

As per school policy, the administration reserves the right to search students and their possessions at random or based on probable cause, Jubas said. School officials are exploring some funding options, including grants, to purchase handheld metal detectors to be used during searches.

“I don’t want to make the kids feel like they’re going into prison,” he said, but he thinks having members of the school’s safety team stationed in the hallway to perform checks weekly or monthly could deter students from carrying weapons.

“If the perception of the students and the staff is that ‘Hey, you just never know, they might search us today,’ then maybe that could be a major deterrent,” he said. “It’s like parking the police car on the highway, and you slow down automatically when you see it.”

School officials also are considering modifying entrance procedures at the school but have not made any decisions yet.

“We probably will be sending out a letter to the community … notifying them of some different security measures,” he said.