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Boy, 6, finds loaded gun in bookbag at Monroeville school; mother charged

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By Kyle Lawson
Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 11:21 a.m.
 

Monroeville police on Wednesday charged the mother of a Ramsey Elementary School student who gave a teacher a loaded .45-caliber handgun he found in his bookbag when he got to school.

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 Roth released Roth without setting a bond.

Roth, who cried outside the courtroom, declined to comment.

The child, a 6-year-old kindergarten student, didn't know the gun was in his bag, police Chief Doug Cole said.

“(He) immediately notified a teacher,” Cole said. “He did the right thing.”

No one was hurt.

Roth told police that several people she suspects are drug dealers who carry guns were in her apartment on Tuesday night, according to a criminal complaint. She told police that when she was in another room, they were sitting at a table next to the bookbag.

Police found a marijuana pipe when they searched the apartment.

“We're going to evaluate this little boy's home life and see what led to this circumstance,” District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said.

Court records show Turtle Creek police charged Roth in January 2011 with simple and aggravated assault, defiant trespass, disorderly conduct, harassment and criminal mischief. In April that year, she was charged with simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct related to fighting. The assault and harassment charges were withdrawn.

Principal Katie Friend did not return a message seeking comment. The school enrolls about 300 students.

School officials will prohibit bookbags in grades K-4 for the rest of the school year, according to an email to parents from Gateway School District Safety Advisor Cara Zanella.

Superintendent Nina Zetty said the district considered such a measure 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.

District discipline for bringing a weapon to school can range from a 10-day suspension to expulsion, Zetty said, though she said they will take into consideration “that he reported it and he had no intent to use the weapon, or even to bring it.”

Many parents learned about the incident about 11:15 a.m. through a phone message the district sent to alert them that “everyone is fine and the situation was under control,” said Bridget Steele, vice president of the Ramsey Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.

Steele said despite the parental instinct to pull her child from school early, she trusted her first-grade student was safe.

“I don't see how, right now, that would do anybody any good, other than to scare our children,” Steele said.

A few parents pulled kids from classes upon hearing what happened, Zanella said.

Student safety was discussed on Tuesday at an intergovernmental meeting in Monroeville that Gateway school officials and emergency personnel attended, school Director Skip Drumheller said. They discussed emphasizing that parents, school staff and even students need to be aware of potential problems.

Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report. Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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