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Highland pulls armed-cop program from schools after accidental gunfire

Highland High School. (March 5, 2013)

Highland High School. (March 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Meghan Murphy

Highland's program of having armed cops in schools was put on hold Wednesday, a day after an officer accidentally fired his gun outside classrooms.

The program "is on hold pending further investigation and discussion," the Highland Central School District said in a statement.

Officer Sean McCutcheon was patrolling a hallway in Highland High School at 1:38 p.m. Tuesday when his gun discharged accidentally, police and school officials said. Students were in class at the time, no kids or faculty members were in the hallway and no one was injured.

McCutcheon fired the round into the floor, Highland Superintendent Deborah Haab said. Police declined to say whether McCutcheon had his handgun holstered or whether he had the weapon drawn for some reason.

McCutcheon, an officer for the Lloyd Police Department, was hired to patrol Highland schools part time on Jan. 3 in response to the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that claimed 27 lives. The Highland School Board was considering expanding the program during budget talks this year.

"Security greeters" still monitor the entrances of all three school buildings in the district, according to the education officials. However, the greeters, who are tasked with screening school visitors, aren't armed.

In the meantime, McCutcheon, who served more than 20 years with the New Paltz Police Department, has been suspended from duty as police conduct an investigation. Detectives interviewed McCutcheon on Tuesday afternoon and planned to talk to teachers and students as well as review footage from surveillance cameras in the school.

In its statement, the school district said administrators were told right away that the gunfire was from the school resource officer accidentally firing his gun. The school kept kids in their classrooms and dismissed them at the usual time.

Because they knew there was no immediate threat, administrators "did not want to incite additional fear or panic for students or parents by going into a lockdown," the district statement said.

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