TED Conversations

Matthew Ceder

Thinking Man,

This conversation is closed.

Pepper Spray in Schools, used by Security Guards. Good or Bad?

Today recently in City of Norfolk, Virginia. We have had a series of incidents being reported. Something like a phenomena. The local news has been reporting security officers using pepper spray on kids in middle school during certain altercations. In one incident it was a fight the security officer was trying to break up and another was a food fight in the cafeteria they were trying to contain. In both schools all kids involved in both incidents were sent to the school nurse and checked out okay, just some irritation from the spray. A letter was sent home to parents in both cases informing them of the incidents. Some locals and parents claimed relief and cheered the security guards for their actions, "this should be mandatory in all schools" some say. Some disagree. They say "children should not be exposed to such things that can cause harm and or fear".

Pepper spray is a legal and nonlethal self defense weapon also used by Police and Mailmen and are proven not to cause any lifelong issues. It also has a very good history in saving lives and neutralizing altercations. It does so well it is even available over the counter at most convenient stores.

The schools in Norfolk do permit the use of pepper spray in school. The employment status of both these guards are pending during investigation. Some argue their innocence and some argue their guilty. They are alleged to have used the pepper spray out of misconduct. What do you think?

Right now Norfolk public school's policy for use of pepper spray is under review. Should security guards in schools be permitted to carry and use nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray for handling these kind of incidents or should they not?





Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Oct 26 2011: Well, first of all, I must ask, how dangerous were these fights? Were they mere petty fights? I would think that it's safe to assume the food fight was non life-threatening to the officer. On the other hand, how dangerous could the real fight have been (the latter fight in the same week)?.

    Let me first examine the food fight. Food fights are harmless and I'm pretty sure middle school children aren't packing razor blades in their mashed potatoes and hurling them at each other, unless this was prison or something. That being said, the pepper spray should not have been utilized in this case. It was total overkill for the security guard to do that and he or she definitely stepped out of line by abusing their powers.

    As for the second fight, the pepper spray should have been used depending on where it happened (after school, in school, on or off school grounds) and the severity of the fight (fists, knives, other weapons, etc.). I believe that if it was just a harmless fist fight, the security guard should have warned the students that he or she was going to use pepper spray on the assailants BEFORE spraying it.

    With young teens and preteens, I think it's important to realize that they're still developing and that even though studies have been done about pepper spray, I believe PS can still damage vision down the line.

    The security guard should have warned before spraying it. If the fight was more severe, with knives, et. al., then the security guard was within power. If it happened anywhere else, off campus or it just a petty fist fight, I think he or she was just power hungry and wanted to teach (and make examples of) the students a lesson on what will happen if you start bullying and/or fighting in his or her school.
    • thumb
      Oct 26 2011: Nicely put!

      Use of pepper spray seems like an over reaction when a school should have other sanctions, including making the culprits clean up after a food fight. I do wonder what behavioural history there is in the school to justify the policy in the first place.

      There are some issues round the use of riot control mechanisms with youngsters. There is the obvious risk to innocent bystanders, more so as a youngster may have a srtonger reaction to irritants than an adult. Also, unless the typical student at that school is a hardened streetfighter and used to this sort of reaction, there is the risk of panic and hysteria.

      I am very much in favour of school regimes expecting reasonable behaviour from students, but having riot control measures in place and ready to use seems excessive unless the school has pre-existing and severe discipline problems.
    • thumb
      Oct 26 2011: Well I cannot answer all your questions. I am pretty much in the dark to on how bad the fight was. I do understand that the security guards tried repeatedly to contain and stop the food fight. The fist fight could have been potentially bad. I grew up in Norfolk, VA I have lived here all my life. The fight was at Blair Middle School, which doesn't have a history of ruffians, but I am much older now and many years have passed. I know I went to both middle schools, I was bullied out of Lafayette Winona and transferred to Blair. But eventually was forced back into Lafayette due to a change in bus routes and school districts, that screwed me. Lafayette was really bad last I went there, I was so glad to leave it! I can imagine the kids were very disorderly and disrespectful, probably threw food at the guards to.

      PS: There is a dog for each school in Norfolk, I've seen them in action a few times. searching for weapons and drugs. through out middle and high school.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.