No matter what the motive of the 12-year-old boy who took a loaded handgun to Wheeling Middle School last Friday, the potential for someone to have been hurt was substantial. But tragedy was headed off, in part because WMS has a "prevention resource officer."
That is one of the titles given to law enforcement officers assigned to work in schools. WMS's officer is Wheeling Police Sgt. John Schultz.
Soon after the boy arrived at school Friday morning, Schultz was informed by other students and some parents that the lad had a gun. Working with school officials, Schultz detained the boy and found the gun in his locker.
It will be up to law enforcement and school officials to decide what to do about the student.
One striking aspect of the case is how quickly trouble was averted.
We have been boosters of law enforcement officers working in schools for several years, in part because of evidence from this area that their presence is helpful in many ways. Often, they help teachers and administrators keep minor discipline challenges from escalating into serious trouble.
And in cases such as that at WMS, they can make a big difference.
Most police officers and sheriff's deputies working in schools establish a rapport with students and faculty. Clearly, Schultz was seen by students and parents as someone they could approach and who would act decisively. He did just that.
No one can say what might have happened had Schultz not been told about the gun. Again, the potential for someone being harmed was great.
But how the problem was resolved is one more persuasive argument in favor of school prevention or resource officers. Where possible, every school district in our area should be working with local police and/or sheriffs' offices to provide such assistance.