Although Beckley police are still investigating allegations that a 13-year-old student at Beckley-Stratton Middle School carried a loaded gun onto a school bus Tuesday, a Raleigh County school official is wasting no time in ensuring the safety of every student in the county.

When the final bell rang Wednesday at Beckley-Stratton, pupil services director Miller Hall climbed the steps of bus No. 147 with the students and stayed until the last student arrived home. Hall said his reason for riding along with the students was to assure them that school officials were serious about students’ safety.

“I need to let people see it’s serious business and let young people see this is a serious act and we’re going to be there to support them and make them as safe as possible,” he said.

Hall said the students did not appear to be nervous or upset about Tuesday’s disturbance.

“The ride was good,” he said. “The kids never said a word. They talked about everything else but what happened. Only one little boy mentioned it. He said he was a friend of the boy (who allegedly brought the gun), but said he didn’t know why he did it.”

Hall, who has worked in the education system 30 years, says this is the first time he has ever dealt with a student bringing a gun to school or on a school bus. Although he says he considers Raleigh County schools to be safe, he says a community effort is required to ensure they remain that way.

“Talk to your sons and daughters, and if you’ve got a weapon of any kind in your home, lock it up,” he said. “Talk to your kids and just be in tune with them. If they have a situation or something’s not going right, contact us (school officials). It takes the whole community to provide safety for our young people.

West Virginia offers a safe school hotline, giving students a way of anonymously reporting violence, weapons, threats, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual harassment or anything by which they feel threatened. Hall says parents should encourage their children to call the number if necessary and says pamphlets with information about the hotline can be found at every school in the county.

“If they (students) see something at school that they think could be harmful and they can’t talk to the administration at school, call that helpline,” he said. “Their name will never be mentioned. It’s not being a snitch. It’s just helping provide safety.”

Beckley-Stratton principal Judy Thomas also took measures to ease students’ minds Wednesday as every first-period class was instructed on all the ways to report dangerous situations.

Beckley police Capt. Cedric Robertson said questions as to how the boy got the gun and why he had it have not been answered. Because of the age of the suspect, police have not been able to interview him and the matter has gone straight to the county prosecutor’s office. The youth is being detained in a juvenile detention center.

Hall said school officials are working with police and have talked to the parents of the youth. After police have completed their investigation, Hall said he expects to have answers.

“We have policies and procedures and will follow these to the letter of the law,” he said. “We’ll talk to the family and the young man and make a recommendation to the board, and they’ll discuss the case and a decision will be made.”

Raleigh County has four levels of discipline violations, with level four violations being the most severe. Possession of a firearm or deadly weapon falls under level four. Although Hall said he was not sure what punishment the student would receive, the Raleigh County Schools Student Handbook lists suspension and expulsion from school as possibilities.

Whatever decision is made, Hall said the situation is upsetting.

“It’s a very sad thing because you hate to see anybody get in trouble,” he said. “Whether they’re young or not, age doesn’t matter. What concerns me is a choice was made and we’re going to have to deal with that.”

The toll-free number for West Virginia’ Safe School Hotline is 1-866-732-3982.

— E-mail: mjames@register-herald.com

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