Police explain, parents react to use of pepper spray at school

Police explain, parents react to use of pepper spray at school

GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY -  If you passed J.H. Rose High School Wednesday afternoon, you may have noticed an abundance of EMS and police cars. They were there to treat a number of students who had inhaled pepper spray that was used to break up a fight.

At J.H. Rose High School, a fight between two 16-years-old males broke out during lunch Wednesday forcing the school's resource officer to choose what type of force he would use to break up the fight. That choice? Pepper spray.

"We actually got the new alert about how pepper spray has been used," said a mother of a sophomore at J.H. Rose, Kathy Herring.

The pepper spray was used to break up a fight.  When things like that happen, it's up to the school resource officers to keep students safe.

"When you have two people who are actively fighting and you're giving verbal commands to them and and they don't stop fighting you have to do something to break them up," said GPD Captain Chis Ivey.

One of those options brings up a lot of controversy: pepper spray.

In the last 24 months, pepper spray has been used four times in schools around the city to break up fights.

One local mother, Donna Linton, says her son has asthma, which can be aggravated by pepper spray.  If it was dispersed in his school, she would fear for his health.

"I would be very furious, very upset," said Linton, arguing there has to be another way. "I don't think it would be safe. I think there would be other means to be able to break up fights besides using a chemical like that."

But Captain Ivey, who oversees the SRO's, says when there is only one officer and multiple people fighting, pepper spray can be the best option to keep others safe.

"The pepper spray that was used yesterday was the quickest and the easiest way for the officer to break up the fight because he was there by himself and he had to do it quickly before somebody got hurt," said Ivey.

But, he admits there can be residual effects.

"It makes you burn, your eyes burn, in your nose, you feel it in your nose, you're burning, you can taste it burn on your tongue," said Ivey.

Despite that possibility, other parents prefer the pepper spray.

"I trust their judgement. They're trained for these situations," said Herring.

Captain Ivey says when you see a fight happening, don't move in towards it. Head away to give the officer room to break it up.

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