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Girl with gun reinforces need to end bullying

Among the most heart-wrenching and troubling stories in the news last week was that of an 11-year-old girl who was caught Monday with a loaded firearm on her school bus after classes at St. Joseph the Provider School in Youngstown.

When questioned, the middle school girl told officials she brought her mother’s gun with her to school because she was “tired of being picked on all the time.”

According to reports, the girl was on a school bus when the driver became aware of the gun. The driver, who was taking students home on the city’s North Side, was able to confiscate the gun from the student, said Monsignor John Zuraw, vicar general of the Diocese of Youngstown.

Thankfully, another youngster had the wherewithal to notify the bus driver that the girl had the gun in her bag.

The driver said he asked the girl about it, and she admitted it was in her bag. He took possession of it but did not “manipulate it in any way.”

Officers stated the gun had a magazine in it, holding four bullets but none in the chamber. It was identified in the police report as a G43, GLOCK single stack, 9 mm Luger caliber pistol.

According to the manufacturer’s website, it is an ultra-concealable, accurate tool for all shooters regardless of one’s hand size. The large magazine catch makes quick work of removing the six-round magazine. It’s described by the manufacturer as “tiny.”

The bus driver notified Youngstown police and school officials.

The girl now is being held in the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center, facing four felony charges, including two counts of illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon in a school safety zone and single counts of carrying a concealed weapon and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.

She will undergo a mental health assessment.

In an unrelated incident just one day later in Champion Middle School, a threatening message was found inside a restroom stall. Staff and school resource officers there also acted quickly to investigate the threat and identify a student they believe is responsible.

It has not been said whether this incident was related to bullying, but either way, it clearly is an example of another troubled youth.

The situation in Youngstown last week, possibly in Champion and in so many other instances that we frequently report on our news pages could have ended so much more tragically. Luckily, the message delivered from both these local incidents last week was heard loud and clear, and was acted upon swiftly.

Frankly, though — especially in the Youngstown case — it should never, ever get to this point.

The enormous amount of bullying and / or emotional stress that goes on today, particularly online or in schools, even often in a public manner, should be alarming to all of us. Indeed, we all should be raising the question of how is it that this type of harassment goes on and on, yet no one does anything effective to stop it?

It’s true that most school systems have anti-bullying programs and policies, yet the bullying continues. Granted, some or much of it probably occurs outside of school and via social media; still, school leaders and local school resource officers must be focused and trained on clues of its existence, where to look to find it, particularly online, and zero-tolerance methods of curtailing it. Of course, parents and other family members also must not be oblivious. They, too, must be focused and attentive to their children’s needs and to their day-to-day activities, especially as kids age and move from elementary school into middle or high school.

And, it goes without saying, all firearms or other dangerous weapons in the home must be secured and locked up.

We are grateful and, frankly, blessed that this situation didn’t end with a story that could have been so much worse.

Still, administrators, teachers, parents and, truly, all members of our community must be thinking about how we all can prevent the type of heartbreaking struggles this young middle-schooler was experiencing. Are anti-bullying programs really effective?

Make this a wake-up call now. No one wants a dead child to be our wake-up call that we aren’t doing enough.

editorial@vindy.com

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