OSHKOSH — A Wisconsin high school resource officer shot a 16-year-old student Tuesday after the boy stabbed him in his office, marking the second time in as many days that a school resource officer has been involved in a student shooting in the state.
Oshkosh Police Chief Dean Smith said he didn’t believe the officer or the student suffered life-threatening injuries. He said the officer shot the teenager once but that he didn’t know how many times the officer fired. The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation.
The incident took place around 9 a.m. at Oshkosh West High School, a school of 1,700 students. Smith said the student was in the officer’s office when they got into an “altercation.” The boy produced an “edged weapon” — Smith declined to elaborate — and stabbed the officer, who fired his 9-millimeter pistol. The officer then called for help.
It wasn’t clear what prompted the attack, with Smith deferring most questions to the investigation. Smith said the resource officer — like all resource officers in Oshkosh schools — is also a police officer.
The school was locked down, and parents later reunited with their children at a nearby middle school.
“Today’s tragic event shows that trained school resource officers can save lives,” Oshkosh School District Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said at a news conference.
An Oshkosh West student identified only as Evelyn told WLUK-TV that she was in class when she heard screaming and her teacher walked out.
“And then, like, after two minutes she ran back into the classroom and she was like, ‘Everybody needs to evacuate right now!’ And then we all ran out of the class and then we saw everybody from our school running to across the street.”
The shooting comes on the heels of another school shooting in suburban Milwaukee on Monday. A resource officer at Waukesha South High School, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Oshkosh, confronted an armed student in a classroom. Another police officer shot the 17-year-old student when he refused to drop his weapon, police said.
Police in Waukesha said Tuesday that the student had pointed a pellet gun at another student’s head. The officer shot the student once in the leg and twice in the arm. The student was taken to a hospital where he was in stable condition Tuesday.
Waukesha Police Chief Russell Jack said the resource officer was able to remove many students from harm’s way.
“Most people run away from danger,” Jack said. “Law enforcement officers run towards danger, especially when someone is threatening our children.”
Linda Ager told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the Waukesha shooting happened in the classroom of her husband, Brett Hart, a special education teacher at Waukesha South. Ager said her husband restrained the student until the resource officer arrived.
School resource officers are typically sworn police officers assigned to patrol a school. No laws in Wisconsin lay out requirements for the job or restrict the types of weapons they can use.
The state Justice Department has adopted a set of best practices for the positions, however. They call for schools and police to set out officers’ responsibilities in memorandums of understanding, to identify what knowledge and skills such an officer needs and to identify under what circumstances the officer will respond to an incident. Officers should receive training on child development, restraint policies, de-escalation strategies, mental health and alcohol and drug use.
The standards closely mirror recommendations from the National Association of School Resource Officers. That group recommends officers act as police, teachers and mentors. They should have at least three years of experience, take a basic training course on how to police schools and complete biannual training on how a single officer should react to assailants or threats.
Rarely have resource officers prevented a school shooting. Last year, for example, armed guards at three high-profile school shootings — Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky; Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; and Santa Fe High School in Texas — were unable to stop the rampage.
At a shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland in March 2018, a school resource officer confronted a teen gunman who fatally shot a girl; the gunman killed himself. In Parkland, the school’s resource officer remained outside rather than enter the building to engage the shooter and try to stop it.