On Tuesday, a student resource officer at a high school in Lloyd, New York, accidentally discharged his sidearm while patrolling school grounds. As a result district officials have suspended the ‘police-in-schools’ program indefinitely.
Officer Sean McCutcheon, who is employed by the Highland Central School District, accidentally discharged his Glock .45 at 1:38 p.m. Tuesday at Highland High School.
While details of how McCutcheon mistakenly fired off a round are still being investigated, what is clear is that no one was injured when the gun went off.
“No students or staff were in the area when the weapon discharged, and no one was injured as a result of this accidental discharge,” Highland Central School District Superintendent Deborah Haab told reporters during a Tuesday meeting with parents and the press.
“Moving forward, I’m sure the board will be having a discussion about overall school security,” Haab added.
McCutcheon is the district’s only student resource officer. Prior to this incident, he would split his time between the district’s three schools in the surrounding area.
“He’s suspended pending the investigation,” Lloyd police Lt. James Janso told reporters, adding that the suspension is standard protocol given the circumstances.
Not surprisingly, the incident had some parents questioning the district’s police-in-schools program, which has been a hotly debated topic both regionally and nationally following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“What if a kid had been killed?” 43-year-old parent Mark Wallen asked. “We got lucky this time and that’s purely what it is.”
Wallen brings up an interesting point, the role that luck plays in all of this or as some might call it fate. Viewed in this light, could one argue that the children and teachers killed at Sandy Hook were simply unlucky? That they were in the wrong place at the wrong time?
The reality is that there are opportunity costs in every decision we make. Whether districts choose to put an armed guard in every school or whether they opt not to, bad stuff can happen either way. The question then becomes what puts children at greater risk? Having armed security personnel in school or leaving a school defenseless against an armed gunman?
Most gun owners would agree with the National Rifle Association, which has said that competent armed guards is the best way to keep children safe and prevent future mass shootings.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in December as he implored Congress “to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school.”
Of course, not everyone agrees with that assessment. Some parents and teachers believe that the risk(s) associated with having armed guards in schools outweighs the potential safety benefits. Are they wrong for feeling this way?
Empirically speaking, it’s a difficult question to answer. Roughly one third of all schools have armed security already and firearm-related accidents are rare. Likewise, it’s difficult to pinpoint a bunch of incidences where armed school security foiled an attack by a gunman.
Consequently, it’s a judgment call. That said, how do you feel about it? Do you support putting armed guards in schools?