This week’s news report about pepper spray used during an October fight at Benjamin Franklin High School has prompted the advocacy group Parents United for Public Education to call for the SRC and Philadelphia School District to investigate the use of pepper spray on students by police officers.
“I’m concerned about collateral damage to kids not involved in the melee,” said parent Maurice Jones, speaking for Parents United. “In a closed space, it can affect people not part of the situation. … We’re trying to figure out what the protocol is.”
“The use of any chemical agent inside a building … is of grave concern for all of us as parents,” the group said in an emailed statement about the incident. It “does not de-escalate a situation. Instead it creates panic and adds to greater chaos and disruption. In a District where a number of students suffer from serious asthma and other respiratory ailments, and where medical personnel are scarce or non-existent, the use of chemical agents within a building poses a massive health and safety risk to all who are involved.” The group wants the School District to clarify its policies on such use of chemical agents by the District and outside entities such as the city police.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the incident on Oct. 29 at Franklin occurred after the school cafeteria was locked down and searched by school police and city police because of a tip that a student had a weapon in the cafeteria. A fight broke out outside the cafeteria during the search, and a city police officer used pepper spray on one or more students, Gallard said. There were 12 arrests, and several students were recommended for expulsion. No weapon was found.