Fayette students suffer effects from pepper spray police used to stop school fight

Ryan C. Hermens/rhermens@herald-leader.com

Two students and some school police officers on Friday experienced side effects from pepper spray school police used to break up a fight at Tates Creek High School.

Emergency responders were called to provide medical care, principal Marty Mills said in a letter to families.

Everyone had recovered by Friday afternoon, Mills said.

It was the second time since November 2022 that Fayette County Public Schools police used pepper spray to break up a fight at Tates Creek High School, and that students and officers had side effects that required medical care.

In the Friday incident, there was a physical altercation between two students.

“The teacher acted swiftly to move the other students to safety by exiting the classroom and called for assistance from administration and FCPS police officers,” said the letter, provided to the Herald-Leader by school district officials.

“The students involved in the disorder refused multiple verbal commands from FCPS police officers and staff to stop, which required the use of pepper spray to break up the fight,” Mills said in the letter.

“The two students and officers in the room experienced some side effects from the spray, so emergency responders were called to provide medical care,” the letter said.

The classroom remain closed for the rest of the day, to ensure no one was affected by after effects of the pepper spray, and the teacher’s remaining classes were relocated.

The November 2022 incident started when two students got into an altercation outside during dismissal in the bus loading area.

While staff were attempting to deescalate the disorder, another fight broke out and a crowd swarmed around it, according to a district letter sent at the time.

Students in the crowd refused to comply with commands from Fayette County Public Schools police officers and the situation escalated, so officers used pepper spray to regain control of the area in the November event.

In that incident too, other students and officers who were in the area experienced side effects from the spray. Emergency responders were called and everyone recovered.

In January, at another school on the same campus, Tates Creek Middle School students and staff were evacuated and relocated to Tates Creek High School and one person was taken to the hospital due to an unknown odor that district officials believed was pepper spray.

District officials have not said why they suspected that the irritant, originally detected in a student bathroom, was pepper spray.

District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Saturday that the pepper spray in the January incident did not come from school police.

On Thursday, a panel of school officials and citizens convened to determine ways to make Fayette schools safer.