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After Ramsey Elementary gun incident, focus is on support

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:06 p.m.

Efforts to ensure the safety of Gateway School District students after a series of scares in recent weeks will focus on emotional support for middle and high school students and a ban on book bags at the elementary level, district officials said recently.

“The administration believes that our efforts need to focus on proactive ways to address student behaviors,” Gateway spokeswoman Cara Zanella said.

“We are focusing on addressing mental and emotional health issues in our schools now and next school year, These issues directly impact student behavior and how students learn to successfully deal with adversity in school and at home.”

Some parents criticized a new policy that banned book bags for students up to the fourth grade.

The policy took effect a few hours after a 6-year-old discovered a loaded gun in his book bag while at Ramsey Elementary School on April 30.

The boy's mother — Stephanie Lynn Marie Roth, 32, of Monroeville — is charged with endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors, police said.

District Judge Jeffrey L. Herbst released Roth without setting a bond.

Police said they suspect another person stashed the gun in the book bag.

University Park Elementary parent Bobbie Robak said she's worried the new policy will result in her daughter leaving a book or homework on the bus.

“Why should students be punished when the student (at Ramsey Elementary) did the right thing by alerting a teacher?” Robak asked

Superintendent Nina Zetty said district officials considered the ban because children come to school with knives in their bags from weekend camping or fishing excursions.

“I know parents will feel this is a knee-jerk reaction, but we have been thinking about this and talking about it, and now is the time,” Zetty said.

Some parents have suggested at recent school board meetings that metal detectors or additional security be added at one or more of the Gateway schools.

Administrators have researched the value of metal detectors in neighboring school districts and determined the equipment and manpower wouldn't necessarily stop a highly unusual event, such as the April 9 knife attack on 21 people at Franklin Regional High School, Zanella said.

“At this time, the district will not be pursuing metal-detector installation at any of the Gateway schools,” Zanella said.

“It is our belief that, for the time being, metal detectors are not the right choice for our schools.”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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