MONONGAHELA — A Pittsburgh-area high school student is being commended after finding a loaded gun in a school bathroom and immediately turning it over to school officials.
Superintendent Karen Polkabla with Washington County’s Ringgold High School informed parents of the Thursday incident in an open letter sent out that same day.
“Highest praises go to the students and school personnel who followed established procedures which insured our students were safe at all times,” Polkabla wrote. “We will continue to work diligently to protect our students.”
In a separate statement posted to the district’s website, Ringgold High School Principal Jason Minniti identified the weapon as belonging to a security guard working for the district, adding “Proper measures are being made to ensure nothing like this happens again.” School officials have declined to elaborate. They have also declined to say anything further about the guard involved, saying they are precluded from discussing personnel matters publicly.
District officials say after the student — who also hasn’t been identified — found the weapon, he told a teacher who then notified another school security officer who then secured the gun in a safe.
Officials say while procedures are in place to prevent this type of thing from happening, one of those policies was not followed on Thursday. The end result was a service weapon being left unsecured in a common area of the school building.
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A call to Polkabla was unsuccessful Friday afternoon, while a message left for Minniti was not immediately returned. The message sought information about the student’s age, as well as more information about the security policies already in place at the district and any currently being considered.
In her letter sent to parents a day earlier, Polkabla said she could not offer any more information about the incident and response.
But she did take the opportunity to praise the student’s actions and ask that parents encourage their children to always report any incident that may put them in danger.
“Only by working as a school community, in partnership with parents, can we create and maintain the level of safety and security that we want for our children and that they certainly deserve,” Polkabla wrote.
Of course, there has been much debate nationwide about the benefit of school security guards and school resource officers with live weapons on campus or in school buildings.
Critics — bolstered by incidents like Thursday’s at Ringgold High School — say those guns can fall into the wrong hands, fall into untrained hands or accidentally discharge. Proponents of armed guards in American schools, meanwhile, point to the staggering toll and frequency of school shootings in recent years, which they say can be prevented or interrupted by the presence of armed professionals.