Pennsylvania Middle School Cafeteria Cleared Out After Accidental Pepper Spray Discharge

Pennsylvania Middle School Cafeteria Cleared Out After Accidental Pepper Spray Discharge

Accidental discharge of a small pepper spray device led to the evacuation of the cafeteria at Easton Area Middle School on Monday. The pepper spray wasn’t deployed on purpose, according to school officials.

Accidental deployment of a small pepper spray device led to the evacuation of the Easton Area Middle School cafeteria on Monday. According to John Remaley, Easton Area School District Director of Safety Schools, the spray was not deployed on purpose.

Remaley said Tuesday that the owner of the key chain pepper spray device was playing with it with a friend Monday morning in the cafeteria. One of the two students dropped the device after the top was flipped open.

Based on the reaction of the friend who bent down to pick up the spray key chain, it appears to have hit the ground directly on the point that deploys the spray, he said. The incident was captured on surveillance video, Remaley said.

The school’s investigation and surveillance video helped authorities identify the student who was carrying the small pepper spray key chain. Her father gave her the pepper spray for self-protection, Remaley said.

According to Remaley, district officials have spoken with the girl and her family. She was in violation of school rules by carrying a prohibited device, but the district will have to check with the Northampton County District Attorney’s Office to see if any laws were broken, as the law may prohibit such devices on school grounds.

When the spray went off and students nearby came into contact with the pepper spray, the staff present “did a hell of a job,” Remaley said. Without knowing what was causing the disturbance, “they reacted well. They got the kids out into the air. It was a very prudent action on their part.”

Remaley called it “a hell of a learning experience,” and said staff and faculty “did pretty well handing it.”

Pepper spray is organic, and Remaley said staff responded well by evacuating students quickly and then opening doors and using fans to air out the affected space of the cafeteria. It was clear early on that they were handling pepper spray and not a more severe substance, he said.

“The best thing for pepper spray is first air, then time” so it can dissipate, Remaley said.

Remaley’s experience with pepper spray indicated that only the affected area needed to be evacuated. No one in the rest of the building displayed any symptoms, he said.

Emergency staff were sent to the school, and a decontamination team from the Easton Fire Department responded to the incident.

He wasn’t immediately sure whether any of the six or so children who were taken to area hospitals were admitted.

Parents who arrived at the school soon after the incident occurred were “very good and very understanding” when told the affected children would have to go through decontamination, which involved walked through controlled fire hose spray, before they could be released to parents and guardians.

The school closed early because as many as 80 students were soaked during the decontamination process, Remaley said.

Digital Edition

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    March/April 2019

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