School Climate & Safety

Should Boston School Police Carry Pepper Spray?

By Evie Blad — November 03, 2014 1 min read
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School police in Boston are holding public hearings to get input on a proposal to carry pepper spray during their daily duties.

The officers, who aren’t armed, say the spray would give them a tool to subdue violent intruders, the Boston Herald reports. Sgt. Bill Kelley, chief of school police, suggested officers could use pepper spray on school shooters when they stop to reload.

“The officers, who have the power of arrest on campus or in pursuit of a suspect fleeing school grounds, cite the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, as evidence that the added security measures are needed,” the Herald reports. “ ‘We don’t want guns or batons, we just want to carry pepper spray,’ Kelley said.”

The article quotes several city council members who are critical of the plan. It does not include the position of the mayor or the superintendent.

Critics of the plan have said pepper spray would be inadequate in a violent situation, and that it would create further concerns about how school police interact with students.

Around the country, civil rights advocates have pushed for thoughtful agreements between districts and school police that outline the rights of students and limit the amount of force officers can use in schools.

School police in other districts carry pepper spray.

In 2010, more than a dozen St. Louis students were treated at a local hospital after school security guards used pepper spray to break up a fight, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Concerns about use of pepper spray by school police in Birmingham, Ala., led the Southern Poverty Law Center to file suit there in 2010.

What do you think? Can these concerns be addressed through strict rules on how school police should use pepper spray? Is it appropriate for them to carry it at all?

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