Gun, Wolf at Aliquippa school on same day
Hours before Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf visited a Beaver County elementary school on Monday for a tour and to discuss educational challenges, school officials recovered a loaded handgun a kindergarten student had toted to class in a backpack.
“I don’t know anything about this incident. They didn’t say anything,” a surprised Wolf said on Tuesday after a meeting with Tribune-Review reporters and editors.
The Aliquippa Elementary student, whom officials did not identify, told a fellow student about having the weapon. That student told a teacher, who contacted principals in accordance with an action plan for such incidents, district Superintendent David Wytiaz said.
“We believe at this point there was no threat made or anything like that,” said Wytiaz, who issued a letter to parents and guardians.
Aliquippa police responded and confiscated the weapon, described by Chief Donald Couch Jr. as a .22-caliber revolver “small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.”
“It’s a very unique situation,” Couch said. “As far as the circumstances, how it got there, I can’t go into that.”
The revolver was registered to someone born in 1914 and thought to be dead, he said.
“I can stress that at no time were any students in danger,” Couch said. “We are definitely sure there was no ill will by the student towards anyone.”
Wytiaz reiterated that point.
“The gun was removed without anyone seeing it,” he said.
The incident occurred about 10:30 a.m., Wytiaz said. Wolf visited the school about 2:30 p.m.
“Child safety is an eternal issue, and this reinforces the need for better safety measures,” Wolf said. “But I don’t think this is anything anyone should pile on about.”
The student remains suspended indefinitely and could receive other disciplinary actions, including at least a year’s expulsion, Wytiaz said.
Police and Beaver County Children and Youth Services will investigate why the child had the firearm at school and whether to file criminal charges.
In April, school officials in Monroeville recovered a loaded .45-caliber handgun from the book bag of a kindergartner. Police charged the child’s mother with endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment, among other counts.
Gateway School District officials banned backpacks for kindergarten through fourth-grade students because of the incident.
Last August, a gun discharged inside a kindergartner’s backpack in a Tennessee elementary school cafeteria. No one was hurt.
Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or [email protected].