"Just because a student is misbehaving is no reason to hit them with 50,000 volts of electricity," Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast regional director for Amnesty International USA, told AOL News. "This is just excessive use of force; it is almost like torturing someone."
The incident involving the Pennsylvania teen occurred Monday, when a Philadelphia police officer shocked him after he ran onto the Citizens Bank Park field during a Phillies-Cardinals game.
"No one can condone running out onto a playing field, but it's hardly a serious threat," Rubenstein said. "It isn't a major crime, and he wasn't out there looking to harm anyone. It's truly a level above a prank."
Despite widespread criticism of the incident, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey concluded the officer acted within the department's guidelines. The department's internal affairs unit has since launched its own investigation.
The electroshock gun is a common tool used by law enforcement agencies because it causes temporary loss of muscle control in its target by deploying electricity throughout the body. Supporters of the device say it allows officers to avoid potential physical confrontations; critics counter that it can cause unnecessary pain -- and possibly death.
The most common version of the electroshock gun is manufactured by Taser International. Steve Tuttle, the company's vice president of communications, says he is aware of the controversy surrounding the device's use on younger people but says there is no cause for concern.
"There is no evidence to indicate that Taser technology is less safe than alternative force options for body weights as low as 60 pounds," Tuttle said, adding that recent research suggests there are "significant safety margins" when the device is used on a person who weighs as little as 40 pounds.
Rubenstein staunchly disagrees and points to two reports Amnesty International has issued in the past decade, which show "more and more people have been dying following an encounter with electroshock guns," he said.
"That is one of our principal concerns," Rubenstein said, "when a weapon that has been advertised as non-lethal is involved, and apparently these things keep happening."
Tuttle said the number of deaths in which Taser devices have been listed as "contributory" is around 30 and that there are typically underlying causes.
"[It's a factor] among other uses of force," Tuttle said. "Typically, pepper spray, what they call the 'pig pile' -- a lot of officers involved on top of the suspect -- [and] drugs are involved in a lot of these cases."
Another issue Rubenstein said Amnesty International has with electroshock guns is their belief that they are used too freely, when alternative options are available. He points to a recent case in North Carolina, where a 17-year-old, 5-foot, 2-inch Lake Norman High School student was shocked by a school resource officer when she resisted arrest and started running down a hallway toward a classroom.
"Is that the kind of discipline you expect in a school?" Rubenstein said. "I mean the girl is out of control for whatever reason [and] she is running away. The school should deal with it on a disciplinary level."
Incidents like that, Rubenstein said, at one time prompted Amnesty International to ask for a moratorium on the use of electroshock guns and more comprehensive research into the medical implications; however, the organization has since found it pointless to do so, considering the devices are already used in thousands of police departments around the country. Instead, it is now asking state officials to get more involved in monitoring the use of the devices.
According to Bill Johnson, executive director for the National Association of Police Organizations, there is no federal law or uniform standard governing the use of electroshock guns.
"Each agency has [its] own guidelines," Johnson told AOL News. "The only federal policies that might be out there would be if you are a federal agent, like ATF, and just for their own internal agents when they can and cannot use it. But then, Congress has not adopted any federal law or federal guideline that would apply uniformly."
So while there may be some concern that there is a lack of federal guidelines, police agencies AOL News spoke with said they do strictly adhere to state guidelines, when applicable, and also policies that have been set forth by their own departments.
"We use a generic state policy as a guideline," Dan Ries, chief of police in Albion, Pa., told AOL News. "We never take away from that policy, but we do add to it, in compliance with laws governing use of force.
Ries also said that using an electroshock gun on a school student can be acceptable if "no other option is available."
"It depends on the officer's threat perception," he said. "A 16-year-old football player who weighs 210 pounds could very well be considered a threat, but we are not going to use it on a 12-year-old, I can tell you that much."
"We all certainly agree that children need to be protected to the greatest degree possible. However, situations can arise where law enforcement officers must subdue minors in order to prevent them from harming themselves or others," he said.
The National Institute of Justice's Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption: Interim Report also states, "The use of a [conducted energy device] against these populations (when recognized) should be avoided but may be necessary if the situation excludes other reasonable options."
Regardless of the reasoning behind the use of electroshock guns on school children, Rubenstein says it is something Amnesty International will continue to oppose.
"I can't advocate that anyone be hit by [an electroshock gun]; but the idea that you could hit a child, I find very troubling," he said.