Pepper spray used on unruly students

The day after six people were wounded at a school bus stop in northeast Las Vegas, authorities used pepper spray on crowds of students at two Clark County high schools.

"Everyone was on heightened alert, even the students, because there had been so much media attention (on the schools)," said Clark County School Police Lt. Ken Young.

Their being on edge might have caused students to argue and fight, he said.

But Young doubted there was anything more connecting the fights at Foothill and Canyon Springs high schools with Tuesday's bus stop shootings that wounded four Mojave High School students.

"It's not abnormal for us to have a fight at a school," he said.

At Canyon Springs, two miles south of Mojave High, administrators had requested increased security after a group of Hispanic and black students got into an argument before school. During lunch, a crowd of students gathered to watch two students fight outside the school in North Las Vegas.

After police stopped the fight, the crowd became unruly, threatening officers and refusing to return to class, officials said.

North Las Vegas police, at the school to provide additional security, used pepper spay on the students after one tried to attack the principal from behind, said Mark Hoyt, spokesman for the Police Department.

Three students were arrested.

It was the first time in 31/2 years that pepper spray was used at Canyon Springs, Matthew said. "I think the officers who used pepper spray acted appropriately," he said.

Paramedics treated students affected by the spray.

School police also used pepper spray during a fight between students at Foothill High School in Henderson.

Principal Jeanne Donadio said two students began a fight in the cafeteria during lunch when hundreds of students were present.

The fight drew a crowd, blocking a police officer attempting to reach the fighting students, Donadio said.

The officer ordered the crowd to disperse twice, Donadio said. The officer then told students if they didn't move, he was going to use pepper spray.

One blast of pepper spray was shot into the air, Donadio said. The use of the spray was in accordance with school police procedures, she said.

It was the first time pepper spray was used at Foothill High School this year, Donadio said.

But some Foothill students had a different version of what happened. They said school police could have stopped the fight sooner, that officers never warned them that pepper spray was going to be used and that some students were sprayed in the face.

Loni Schoon, 14, who said she was trapped in the courtyard during the fight, claimed she vomited because of the spray and no one would help her.

She said she called her mom, who told her to call 911. When she attempted to make that call, a hall monitor yelled at her to hang up the phone and go back to class, she said.

Schoon missed school Wednesday because she was traumatized by the event. "It made me feel like we were not safe anywhere, not even at school."

There were hundreds of students who were sprayed and couldn't get treatment for the burning sensation on their skin and eyes, said freshman Kiley Roundy, 14. "All they did was tell us to shut up and move on."

At least 26 students affected by the spray were treated by the school nurse, Donadio said. If students required additional medical attention parents were called, she added.

Freshman Ivan Garcia, 14, who acknowledged he was watching the fight, said he was pepper-sprayed in the face as he tried to move away from the altercation. The nurse let Garcia use a sink to wash his face, he said.

Five parents called school administrators about the use of pepper spay, Donadio said.

Dani Gutierrez said the school wouldn't return her calls so she wrote a letter to administrators. The mother believes the students were assaulted and that administrators and school police acted inappropriately.

"I want to see justice," Gutierrez. "I want someone held accountable for the assault that happened not just to my kid, but everyone at the school."

Though uncommon, Young said there is always the possibility of pepper spay being used any time a crowd of students becomes unruly or blocks access in an emergency.

There are no specific rules on the use of pepper spray, Young said. Officers use their discretion. Each incident of force, including the use of pepper spray, is recorded by school police, he said.

"Parents need to remind kids to go the opposite way of a fight, they only add to the problem," he said.

Review-Journal writer Lisa Kim Bach contributed to this report. Contact reporter Beth Walton at bwalton@reviewjournal. com or (702) 383-0279.