School Climate & Safety

Boston School Police Will Not Carry Pepper Spray, Superintendent Says

By Evie Blad — November 06, 2014 1 min read

Boston school police will not move forward with public hearings seeking feedback on a plan to carry pepper spray, acting Superintendent John McDonough said.

“I think what we are hearing so far has persuaded me that pepper spray, no matter how well-developed the policy, and no matter how well-crafted the training, and no matter their good intention—might serve to drive a wedge between our students and the school police who do a great job protecting them every day,” McDonough wrote in a statement reported in the Boston Herald.

The officers, who are not armed, had sought permission to carry pepper spray as a means to break up violent encounters. The school police chief had said officers could use pepper spray on a school shooter who stopped to reload.

Civil rights and student advocates, who generally question the role of police in schools, have said pepper spray could be used inappropriately against students and has no place in educational environments.

Boston’s schools have worked in recent years to upgrade discipline policies and improve school climate, McDonough said in his statement, adding that the schools “are reframing how schools approach the issue of preventing conflicts before they begin.”

The Herald notes that, because of a misunderstanding, some officers were already carrying pepper spray, but they had never used it.

“It was a defeat for the school police union who had bargained to create a plan under which officers would be allowed to carry pepper spray in 2006,” the Herald reports. “At a meeting last week Boston School Police Superior Officers Union Representative Bill Kelley said officers had mistakenly been carrying the pepper spray since that 2006 contract. It was never used, he said.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.