Student, 12, arrested after gun found in backpack at New Philadelphia middle school

NEW PHILADELPHIA − A student at Welty Middle School was arrested Thursday afternoon after the school's assistant principal found an unloaded handgun and ammunition in the student's backpack, the school district superintendent and police said.

City Police Capt. Tessa Pohovey said no one hurt. The student never fired the gun at the school.

The 12-year-old was taken into custody by Pohovey and another city police officer without incident and is being held at the Muskingum County Juvenile Detention Center in Zanesville.

Welty, at 315 Fourth Street NW, has grades sixth through eighth and is the middle school for the New Philadelphia City Schools District.

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The suspect is scheduled to be arraigned in Tuscarawas County Juvenile Court on Wednesday. At a hearing held Friday, Judge Adam Wilgus decided to keep him in the detention center for his own safety and the safety of the community. Wilgus assigned the public defender's office to represent the student. Attorney Donovan Hill was appointed as guardian ad litem to represent the child's interests during court proceedings.

The police captain said the boy may face charges of illegal conveyance of a weapon into a school safety zone, inducing panic and possibly carrying a concealed weapon. Pohovey said the decision on charges is up to the juvenile prosecutor.

Charges are expected to be filed by Monday, according to Douglas Jackson, an assistant county prosecutor.

Student alerts administrator

Pohovey said around dismissal time at 2:30 p.m., another student informed the assistant principal, Ricky Neff, that the boy had shown the student the gun in his backpack in the boys' restroom.

Neff immediately found the 12-year-old who was about to leave the school, separated him from his backpack, brought him into his office, searched the backpack and found the gun and ammunition, Pohovey and the school district said.

Amy Wentworth, the superintendent of New Philadelphia City Schools said, “I’m very proud of our administration in the way that have handled this, with the response, very proud of our police department and the cooperation between them and us. At the end of the day, I’m so very thankful that we had a student report this and we were able to discover this and everybody was safe.”

Wentworth said it's the first time she can recall in her 15 years with the district where a student was found with a gun at one of the district's schools.

She said that due to federal and state privacy laws, she could not reveal how the district would discipline the student such as whether the district would suspend or expel the student.

Wentworth said school officials were still questioning anyone who might have knowledge about what happened.

"But we have no known written threats or indication any other students are involved," she said.

Similarly, the police captain said officers found no indication the student planned any act of violence or that anyone else was involved in bringing the weapon, a .22-caliber handgun, into the school. It's not clear yet why the student brought the gun into the school or why he showed the gun to another student. Police believe that he got the gun from the family member. But the boy, after being read his Miranda rights against self-incrimination, refused to tell police officers whom he got the gun from or how he got it.

Pohovey said potential witnesses were not being forthcoming with police on how the boy got the gun.

Message to parents

Wentworth said the district sent out a mass robocall with a message recorded by her to school employees and parents and guardians.

"At the time of the incident, there was no known verbal, written, or physical threat toward any student or staff member," a written text of the message said. "While that is a small comfort, it did not and does not impact the seriousness with how we are handling this incident. We will continue working with the New Philadelphia Police Department and handle the situation according to applicable state laws and the New Philadelphia City Schools Student Handbook.

"Our schools are filled with people who care deeply for our students and everyday they are doing all that they can to watch out for them and to keep them safe. We have rigorous safety protocols in place, our school administration routinely conducts roundtable exercises to prepare for unexpected situations at school, students and staff regularly practice school safety drills, and the district maintains open lines of communication with our first responders.

"We all have a role to play in ensuring our schools remain safe places for learning. Please take time to remind your child that they should tell an adult if they hear about the possibility of a threat at or near school. Saying something when you see something truly makes a difference − and it likely helped prevent today's incident from escalating."

The superintendent said the district does not use metal detectors to screen students.

New Philadelphia police posted two additional officers Friday at Welty and the adjoining high school at Wentworth's request.

Times-Reporter staff writer Nancy Molnar contributed to this story.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated. A prior version of this article provided the wrong name and title of the Welty Middle School administrator who immediately responded and gave the wrong method by which the school district informed parents in the district about what had happened.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: New Philadelphia student arrested for bringing gun to middle school