EBENSBURG - An expulsion hearing for a 16-year-old Admiral Peary Vo-Tech student who took a loaded 9 mm handgun to school last Friday is tentatively set for Monday morning, according to school officials.
The student was automatically suspended for 10 days from both the vo-tech and his home school, per state Act 26 rules, after administrators uncovered the gun in the student's waistband, concealed under a shirt.
He told administrators he was carrying the gun for fear of being attacked by another student after school.
Cambria Township police have charged the student with possession of a weapon on school grounds and theft, saying the student stole the gun from an unnamed relative.
Vo-Tech Executive Director Ken Jubas said the student sat in a room with 40 to 50 other students for more than an hour during a study hall, because other students and teachers, including the student's welding instructor, were away for a skills competition.
Jubas said the room was filled with three classes worth of students, something the student perhaps wasn't expecting.
"Sitting around all these kids and ... I don't know what runs through your mind" when you're in possession of a weapon, he said.
The student had the gun for at least an hour on vo-tech grounds, and on the bus that transported him from his home school district, Blacklick Valley, Jubas said.
"It was observed on the bus," he said. "We picked up on it from the bus ride in."
Superintendent John Mastillo said administrators are investigating whether the gun was on Blacklick Valley's school property.
"Since Friday, we've been working diligently with our local law enforcement agencies to address that matter," he said, and would not comment further.
Jubas said all seven participating districts send students to Admiral Peary Vo-Tech by bus, meaning the student could not have left school grounds, after having morning classes and lunch at Blacklick, to retrieve the gun.
Jubas said because the vo-tech serves seven districts, its student handbook was designed to be similar to those schools. So when a student is suspended at his or her home school, he or she also is suspended at vo-tech, and vice versa.
Because the student is a minor, he faces a maximum one-year expulsion.
A Monday hearing at the Cambria County Juvenile Detention Center determined the student will not be released until his expulsion hearing, police said.
Jubas said when vo-tech makes a recommendation for expulsion after Monday's hearing, it will be sent to Blacklick Valley school board for approval.
In the past, suspended students have been recommended for alternative placement and allowed to return to vo-tech earlier, so they miss fewer classes.
But because of the seriousness of the charges, Jubas said that likely will not happen this time.