While legislators in several states are seeking to arm teachers or place police officers in schools, a recent incident at a high school in Highland, N.Y., forced the district to put its school resource officer program on hold.
According to local reports, officer Sean McCutcheon discharged his gun in a school hallway Tuesday while on duty at Highland High School. Though the circumstances surrounding the incident are currently under investigation, Highland Central School District Superintendent Deborah Haab said it was an accident.
"No students or staff were in the area when the weapon discharged, and no one was injured as a result of this accidental discharge," Haab told reporters and parents during a meeting Tuesday evening (see video above). "Moving forward, I'm sure the board will be having a discussion about overall school security."
The apparent mishap occurred near the end of the school day, at 1:38 p.m., while McCutcheon was patrolling the school.
Though Town of Lloyd Police Chief Daniel Waage refused to discuss specifics, the Times Herald-Record reports that Waage confirmed McCutcheon has undergone drug and alcohol tests as part of the investigation. McCutcheon was not expected to return to work Wednesday, and the school district's resource officer program has been suspended pending the results of the inquiry.
The incident highlights a larger question, part of the national debate among legislators, teachers and parents: Should guns be allowed in schools as a protective measure, and if so, who should carry them?
In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., school safety has become a key issue, prompting President Barack Obama to recommend individual schools make the choice of whether or not to enlist armed resource officers. Under a federally funded program, these "specially trained police officers" would be present in schools to "help prevent school crime and student-on-student violence."
Although experts are skeptical, arguing that armed guards in schools could cause more harm than good, some schools have already instituted school resource officer programs.
However, Tuesday's incident was not the first controversy to call such programs into question. In January, an armed security officer at a Michigan public school was reprimanded for leaving his unloaded gun unattended in the bathroom.