After a lawsuit was filed last year on behalf of eight high school students against the Birmingham Board of Education over the use of pepper spray against them at school, one attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center has uncovered something shocking: they could not find a single school district in the country that uses pepper spray on students as much as Birmingham Schools,The Birmingham News reports.
"We have not ... learned of a single other school district in the country where Mace is used repeatedly and regularly the way it is in Birmingham," Maria Morris, managing attorney of the Montgomery SPLC office, said in a press conference, the report states.
How regularly? SPLC officials say that the frequency had reached about 100 times over the last five years. They argue that the district is violating students' Fourth Amendment rights, WBRC reports.
According to a separate report by The Birmingham News, two students included in the complaint are a 17-year-old girl who was four months pregnant when she was pepper-sprayed, and an 18-year-old girl with a heart murmur.
"It is time that Birmingham school and law enforcement officials are held accountable for their unconstitutional policies so that not one more child suffers this brutal treatment," Ebony Howard, lead attorney on the case for SPLC, told the paper.
According to Howard, the plaintiffs hope to inspire the school system to take action by implementing the following policies:
- A modified policy on the use of pepper spray by school resource officers.
- More comprehensive and extensive training for school resource officers.
- A better selection process for people who become school resource officers.
On Monday, a student at a Bronx high school pepper-sprayed around 20 students and the principal in the afternoon. The school was evacuated for about an hour.
The week before, a 14-year old girl pepper-sprayed her classmates at a Harlem high school, sending nine students to the hospital.