Judge denies Gateway School District's petition to create armed police department

MONROEVILLE, Pa. — An Allegheny County common pleas judge on Thursday denied the Gateway School District’s petition for the creation of an armed police department, school officials confirmed.

The district had already hired more than a dozen retired officers to patrol school hallways before Judge Timothy Patrick O'Reilly’s ruling.

An original petition to the court was filed on July 19. According to Channel 11's news partners at TribLIVE, the district submitted a petition on Sept. 6 for an expedited decision to add armed guards beyond school resource officers. Officials cited a recent incident in which police intercepted communications on social media and prevented a potential altercation between two students.

Chad Stubenbort, Gateway School District school board president, disagreed with the judge, saying that he was biased and didn’t rule according to law.

“I'm personally very disappointed in Judge O'Riley's denial of our petition to arm our school police. On page six, he states that he does not believe a school police force is a good idea. The Gateway school board did not petition the judge to see his personal opinion of the matter. I expected the judge to rule according to the law. Instead, we received his personal opinions, which were littered with his own bias against the formation of a police force,” Stubenbort said in a written statement.

Stubenbort told Channel 11 News that the school district spent months hiring and placing the former officers in schools.

O'Riley's decision read, in part: “I do not believe the creation of an independent private force of police officers is a good idea. Further, giving them full police power, including arrest and citation powers, can lead to abuses.”

Stubenbort believes that O'Riley's reasoning is insulting to the officers.

“I think that the judge should probably apologize to our officers. I mean, these are veterans of the Pennsylvania State Police who have 25 years of experience, and for him to say that they're going to abuse their powers and to say that they are going to carry out other things -- I mean, that's a slap in the face, in my opinion, to every police department in the commonwealth,” Stubenbort said.

The Gateway School District plans to appeal O'Riley's ruling, according to Stubenbort.