Investigation Launched After Pepper Spray Incident At School

Thursday, September 20th 2007, 1:29 pm
By: News On 6

A confrontation at a Tulsa high school ends with security guards firing pepper spray at a crowd of students. It happened at East Central High School, located at 12150 East 11th Street, Thursday afternoon. The incident has several parents upset. The News On 6’s Ashli Sims reports
some East Central parents say innocent students were endangered, the school security guards claim they were the ones fearing for their safety.

The ambulance parked outside of East Central High School was the first sign something was wrong.

“Everyone's running outside and I couldn’t breathe, no one could breathe, it was in our eyes and everything," said one East Central student.

School officials say the day started with a fight between about 15 girls. The dust had barely settled on that scuffle when another confrontation began, this time between two security guards and a group of students.

“What I seen was there was a security guard and student getting into an argument, and the student threw a phone and then the security guard started going crazy with the pepper spray," said East Central junior Dillon Murray.

School officials say the security guards felt threatened, and they warned the students several times before firing a warning shot of pepper spray onto the floor. TPS says when that didn't work the guards sprayed into the air, above the students’ heads.

“Instantly my eyes were on fire and my throat, and it was really hard to breathe,” Murray said. “Kids were gagging and choking, a couple of kids threw up, I almost threw up."

East Central's principal insists only a handful of students were affected. The paramedics were called but no one was taken to the hospital.

Several East Central parents were outraged by the incident.

“Y’know there were innocent children walking by, there are children that have asthma, children with inhalers. I'm just appalled, appalled," said one East Central parent.

TPS spokesperson Tami Marler says she can understand parents being upset.

"But I also can assure them that this district is trying to work in the best interest of their children,” Tami Marler, Tulsa Public School’s spokesperson said. “We will get to the bottom of what happened here today."

Not long after the final bell, tensions bubbled over again, with students racing to the sight of another scuffle.

"We're hoping that when the sun goes down and it comes back up tomorrow morning we'll have a new day and this will be behind us and we'll have school as usual," said East Central principal Tom O’Malley.

Tulsa Public Schools say they will review the actions taken by the security guards. Meanwhile, East Central's principal says several students involved in the earlier fight and the pepper spray incident will be suspended.

Watch the video: Tear Gas Used On Students At East Central High School