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9-year-old accused of pointing BB gun at bus

March 17, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- A 9-year-old Jefferson County boy was being held Tuesday night following an incident in which police allege he pointed a loaded, rifle-like BB gun at his school bus that afternoon, prompting 10 students who were still on board to "take cover," police said.

The students were shaken up but no one was injured, officials said.

The boy is being held at Vicki Douglas Juvenile Center pending a detention hearing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Jefferson County Magistrate Court and Sheriff's Department Deputy Cpl. D.C. Tabler.

The students got down on the floor when the boy pointed the gun at the bus, said Tabler, who responded to the incident at 4:17 p.m. The boy apparently got into a verbal altercation with the driver as he was being dropped off near his home, Tabler said.

The bus was delayed from leaving the bus stop by a train that was crossing W.Va. 230 (Shepherdstown Pike), Tabler said. The stop is about halfway between Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County.

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"The driver is fine," Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Susan Wall said. "She'll be on the job tomorrow, but she will be assisting with the investigation (not driving)."

Tabler said he will review surveillance video footage from the bus to determine the circumstances leading up to the altercation.

Emergency officials initially received calls that a juvenile was pointing what appeared to be a black rifle or shotgun at the bus, Tabler said.

Tabler said the child's mother was at home when Tabler was dispatched to investigate the incident. The deputy said the weapon looked like a rifle or shotgun, but was made to fire BBs and pellets.

The school bus driver contacted the school district's bus garage about the altercation and transportation officials there called 911, Tabler said.

While investigating the incident, Sheriff's Deputy A.T. Thomas was able to verify that everyone who was still on the bus was safe, Tabler said.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department was assisted by members of the Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown and Shepherd University police departments, Tabler said.

Wall said the bus driver followed appropriate procedure in responding to the situation, which she said school officials are taking "very seriously."

"I can assure you we will follow county and state policy," Wall said when asked about a potential suspension or expulsion hearing.

Felony offenses, such as terrorist acts, are considered Level IV violations by the West Virginia Department of Education and "require the mandatory suspension of the student by the principal from school, or from transportation to or from the school on any school bus, after an informal hearing," according to the state's Student Code of Conduct.

The school principal may also request that the superintendent make a recommendation to the county board of education that the student be expelled, according to the code, which is posted on the Department of Education's Web site.

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