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Monessen expels three students

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

The Monessen School Board on Tuesday expelled three football players who brought guns and drugs into the Memorial Stadium locker room Oct. 6.

With the elementary center meeting room packed with residents, the board voted 8-0 to oust the students. Board member Brett Lepresti was absent.

The length of the expulsion is one year and will end Oct. 4, 2013, according to Act 26 of the Safe Schools Act, the motion stated.

The act prohibits the possession of weapons on school property; defines a weapon, school property, and school entity; and sets forth reporting requirements for incidents of violence and weapons possession.

The expulsion of the trio brings an end to a “disappointing” time for the district, Superintendent Linda Marcolini said.

“It's time to move on from this,” Marcolini said. “I'm still very upset about it, but we had to do what we had to do.”

The district is responsible for paying the costs of the students' placement, Marcolini said, whether it be cyber schools or other educational programs.

The boys – ages 15, 16 and 17 – were arrested, charged and placed in the Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center in Hempfield Township after football coach Andy Pacak called Monessen police Chief Mark Gibson and alerted him to suspicions that players had brought illegal drugs into the locker room.

A search turned up suspected marijuana, suspected heroin, cash and two semi-automatic handguns, one of which was loaded.

Two of the players were adjudicated delinquent in Westmoreland County Court Oct. 17 after admitting to possessing drugs and a gun at the stadium.

A Mason jar containing three baggies of suspected marijuana and $395 in cash were found in the 15-year-old's locker, which led to charges of possession of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver suspected marijuana.

He confessed to a charge of drug possession, and prosecutors dropped the possession with intent to deliver count.

At the time, Westmoreland County Judge John Driscoll said he would await a juvenile probation investigation before determining action against the boy.

The 17-year-old's locker contained suspected heroin and a loaded .22-caliber handgun. Police charged him with possession with intent to deliver suspected heroin, possession of a firearm by a minor, possession of a weapon on school property, and possession of a firearm with an altered manufacturer number.

During his hearing, he admitted to charges of drug possession and the firearms charges. Prosecutors dropped the charge of possession with intent to deliver suspected heroin.

His arrest violated probation stemming from another case.

Driscoll ordered him to be admitted to the drug and alcohol program at Glen Mills, a reformatory school in Delaware County. The case will be reviewed in six months.

The 16-year-old's locker contained an unloaded 9mm hand gun. He was charged with possession of a firearm on school property and possession of a firearm by a minor. His hearing was not open to the public.

All three were immediately suspended from school pending an investigation by school officials and authorities.

Another incident

Marcolini confirmed another incident at the school involving a sixth-grade student bringing a prohibited item to the school.

The student allegedly remembered that he had a utility-type tool in his coat and gave it to a teacher before passing through the school's metal detector.

Such items generally combine a number of tools into a single device, some of which contain blades.

“We're working on that project right now,” Marcolini said. “I can't really comment on it right now.”

She said no decision has been made on possible punishment for the boy.

Aiding storm victims

During her report to the board, Marcolini announced that students and staff members have been collecting relief items for those affected by Superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, N.J.

Marcolini said she and a group of volunteers will be at the elementary school loading a rental truck with collected items beginning 9 a.m. Saturday.

“We wanted to do something to help, and we have a connection in Hoboken, which was leveled by the storm,” Marcolini said.

Donations can be dropped off at the school on Saturday. Volunteers can help pack boxes and the truck, Marcolini said.

“I was telling everyone we were going to be here until 3 p.m., but we're driving the truck to meet the people in Harrisburg,” she added. “So, we're going to head out earlier than that, if we can.”

Marcolini recognized a number of students through Superintendent's Awards.

The awards will be presented at the end of each nine-week grading period. The awards are based on points received for good citizenship, academic achievement and attendance.

“These students have worked hard in academics and everything else,” Marcolini said. “Congratulations to the parents for the fine job they're doing with their kids and their education.”

The board voted unanimously to renew a service agreement with Consolidated Communications for maintenance of outside phone lines.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or jsellew@tribweb.com.

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