A blast of pepper spray to the face can subdue most people within seconds. But an increasing number of school children are feeling the effects of pepper spray discharges at Chicago area schools, whether it is intentional or not.
NBC 5 Investigates found 95 elementary and high school students and 3 adults have been injured or impacted in 10 separate incidents involving pepper spray - or a similar aerosol propellant - across Chicago and the suburbs in the past five weeks. That’s the same number of pepper spray incidents that occurred in all Chicagoland schools over the previous seven years.
Here’s a list of the 10 recent incidents involving pepper spray – or a similar aerosol propellant – discharged in Chicago-area schools over the last five weeks:
• Thursday, April 25 – Two students at Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s far south side were taken to the hospital after a student “discharged pepper spray,” according to police.
• Friday, April 26 – Another incident – which police say involved either mace or pepper spray -- injured at least eight people at Morgan Park High School
• Wednesday, May 1 – At least fourteen students at Gresham Elementary School (on Chicago’s south side) were taken to hospitals after a juvenile allegedly discharged pepper spray
• Wednesday, May 1 – Another pepper spray attack at Morgan Park High School, injuring three students and two teachers
• Thursday, May 2 – Again at Morgan Park High School: Sixteen students were hurt after two people (both under age 18) allegedly sprayed an aerosol bottle
• Tuesday, May 7 – Police arrested a 17-year-old boy after 11 students at Morgan Park High School were injured by another discharge of some kind of chemical irritant spray, according to Chicago police
• Thursday, May 9 – Four students were taken to the hospital after a discharge of pepper spray in a classroom at Sawyer Elementary School in Gage Park on the city’s southwest side.
• Monday, May 13 – Eleven school children, ages 8 to 12, were hurt when pepper spray was discharged on a school bus in Maine Township near north-suburban Park Ridge
• Wednesday, May 15 – Fairfield Elementary Academy in southwest-suburban Chicago Lawn -- 15 kids hurt by pepper spray discharged inside a classroom
• Wednesday, May 22 – Eleven children and one adult were hospitalized after pepper spray was discharged at Hanson Park Elementary School on Chicago’s northwest side.
Officer Dan Humphreys of the River Forest Police Department trains police officers how to safely use pepper spray. He said a direct blast of pepper spray can impact a person’s breathing, skin and eyes. But he said people who are not sprayed can still feel the effects if they are nearby.
“Whether it be five, 10, 15 feet away because it stays in the air, it stays on objects,” Humphreys said.
You must be at least 18 years old to purchase pepper spray in Illinois.
It remains unclear if the increase in school pepper spray incidents is the result of self-defense or kids’ showing off. Still, students are not allowed to have pepper spray in Chicago Public Schools buildings.
"Student safety is the district's highest priority and the district has provided support to schools experiencing pepper spray incidents by pairing enhanced security measures with restorative interventions to ensure students are engaged and understand the consequences of these actions,” said CPS spokesperson Emily Bolton.
The district added that while the incidents are highly disruptive, no serious injuries have been sustained. But even if the incident is small, the district will air on the side of caution and vacate impacted areas and transport students who are experiencing any symptoms to the hospital out of an abundance of caution.