Rowan-Salisbury Schools: No place for mace?

Published: May. 11, 2016 at 11:35 AM EDT
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The idea to allow high school students in Rowan-Salisbury Schools to carry pepper spray or mace as personal protection is getting a second and more critical look.

The Board of Education voted on Monday to remove 'defensive sprays' like mace or pepper spray from its list of weapons that are banned from school property.

Much of the discussion centered on how those items were used for personal protection and should be something students would be allowed to carry.

"Having been pepper sprayed numerous times and being a school resource officer, the baseball bats that your baseball team brings every day to school is a bigger weapon than a canister of pepper spray, that's my thinking on it," said BOE member Travis Allen.  "A chair from the cafeteria is a bigger weapon than a can of pepper spray, so that's my thinking on that."

Part of the discussion also centered on not punishing students who may carry a canister of a defensive spray on their key chains or in a pocketbook and who simply forgot to leave it at home or in the car.

"I don't want to restrict a student who has a personal protection device for travel if they so need it," Allen added.

But Monday night's discussion was seen in a new light on Tuesday, according to Board Chairman Josh Wagner.

"After yesterday's meeting, there have been several inquiries regarding the policy change. This is not a surprise. However, I have received a phone call today with concerns that were not relayed to our board yesterday," Wagner wrote in an email to WBTV.  "Apparently, the board, as well as the system, may put it self in a vulnerable position by making the policy change regarding mace and pepper spray. Again, these concerns were not relayed in the meeting yesterday."

"This is particularly concerning considering this issue was carried over from a previous meeting. Our board was not given clear direction in regards to exposure. In fact, we were reminded by our attorney that the state statute does not consider mace and pepper spray prohibited items for schools," Wagner added.  "Furthermore, the state does have guidelines regulating the size and quantity of pepper spray that is allowed to be carried by an individual. This would also impact students. These were key reasons for the decision. With this in mind, our board will discuss this further at the business meeting this month. I cannot speak for the board. However, I feel certain if these concerns had been expressed in the meeting, some board members, including myself, would certainly have looked at the situation differently."

"Our intent was to give consistency across the board between our staff and student policies. I think it is important that this information be given to the public for clarification," Wagner concluded.

The issue will likely come up again, but with more information  from the attorney for the BOE.

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