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Indian River teacher stops possible tragedy at school

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PHILADELPHIA — Quick action by Indian River Central School science teacher Robert M. Kuba is being credited with averting tragedy in the classroom Wednesday.

In his more than 20 years as a teacher, Mr. Kuba has never experienced serious threats in his classroom and had never received formal training in self-defense or how to disarm a gunman, but on Wednesday he disarmed a 15-year-old student carrying a rifle and held him for authorities.

“You just react. It happened so quickly,” Mr. Kuba said.

The student had arrived at Mr. Kuba’s seventh-period earth science class with the rifle and its case concealed under a blanket. He told his teacher he had an experiment in conduction, a subject the class had covered the week before, to show him. Mr. Kuba asked the student to wait until the end of class, and about three minutes before the period ended, the student brought the package to the front of the classroom to the instructional table. The student put the package on the floor with his back to his classmates and leaned down to get the rifle.

“When he pulled back the blanket I saw the rifle case and immediately questioned why he would be bringing anything in one of those. Then when he opened the case I saw the rifle and I reached for it,” Mr. Kuba said.

Mr. Kuba said with one hand he held the barrel of the rifle away from the students and with the other pushed the student’s body away from the weapon. He then led the student to the back of the classroom, put him in the chemical storage room and called the main office.

“The officer and the principal were there in less than a minute,” Mr. Kuba said.

Jefferson County Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau said the rifle was loaded and was obtained legally, but he wouldn’t say who owned the rifle. It is still unclear where the student kept the rifle before going to his science class. Detective David J. Pustizzi said he couldn’t say where the rifle had been stored but it had been in the school all day before the student brought it to Mr. Kuba’s classroom.

“We still have a lot of interviews left to conduct to put together what happened between when the student left the house in the morning and who he talked to in school before going to that classroom,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Mr. Pustizzi said because of the student’s age it is doubtful, even after the investigation is completed, that police will able to give out more details behind the events at the school. He said he couldn’t say whether the teenager had been charged with anything or whether he was still in police custody. He said that the student is “not in the public” and that generally bringing a weapon to a school is a felony.

It is still unclear what kind of rifle it was or what exactly the student planned to do. But Mr. Pustizzi said the young man told him he had been planning to bring the gun to the school for months and had a “very detailed plan.”

Mr. Kuba said that the student had never caused any trouble in class before, that he was a good student and that he wasn’t aware of anyone bullying him.

“There are a lot of questions out there. It isn’t like Google where you can get the answer quickly. Answers are going to come from investigation,” Mr. Kuba said.

The student’s classmates, who met with school administrators Thursday morning were concerned only with how their classmate was doing, Mr. Kuba said.

Indian River Central School Superintendent James Kettrick said when classes began on Thursday, he made an announcement commending the students and the faculty for their actions.

“The principal reviewed what happened over the loudspeaker and then told them the day would be going on as a normal school day,” Mr. Kettrick said. “We have a second deputy sheriff at the school and there are support services for the students who need them.”

Mr. Kettrick said he was grateful for the work of Mr. Kuba, who he said handled the situation very well.

“It’s really important for anyone who has suspicions about someone coming into a school or any children’s functions that they not take it lightly; report it to authorities right away,” Mr. Pustizzi said. “It’s thanks to the quick action of a teacher really helped peacefully end this situation. It could have been much worse.”

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