RSS board: High schoolers will be allowed to carry pepper spray

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 10, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — High school students will be allowed to carry mace in the 2016-2017 school year after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education agreed to remove prohibitive language and amend its policy.

The board spent some time at its Monday work session in the Wallace Education Forum debating whether pepper spray and other defensive sprays, as well as personal shaving razors, should be allowed on school campuses.

The discussion is a continuation of a debate that occurred at an April meeting.

The policies in question are 5027 and 4333, which detail weapons and other threats to safety.

Board member Travis Allen was in favor of allowing the canisters on school campuses, as long as they remained locked in student vehicles. However, board Chairman Josh Wagner pointed out that students aren’t likely to check their purses or bags to remove the spray every time they go to school – and then they would be found in violation of the policy.

[Story continues below video]

“And you start this whole kind of snowball. So I don’t want to put the students in this weird situation when they didn’t really do anything, they just happened to forget to check their purse every single day,” he said.

Board member Chuck Hughes was in favor of the sprays on campuses, saying that in his mind, they were purely defensive. He also referenced HB2, saying that the sprays might be useful.

“Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in,” he said.

But members were still concerned that the sprays could be used for purposes other than defense. The board’s lawyer, Ken Soo, said that there have been few cases of a student using Mace against a teacher.

“I imagine every football game there is on Friday night there’s more pepper spray in the stands in pocketbooks and key chains and you know, we never have an issue with it,” Allen said.

Hughes pointed out that if the defensive sprays were taken completely out of the policy, then there would be no violation of policy if students forgot to remove canisters from their bags.

Wagner suggested adding language to allow the canisters in locked vehicles, but Susan Cox pointed out that often, there’s a long walk between a football stadium and a locked vehicle.

Allen said that the same amount of damage could be done with a bottle of Windex, or a spray bottle of ammonia.

“I could do more damage with my laptop than I could with a bottle of pepper spray, it’s just a non-issue,” he said.

The board agreed to allow system high school students to carry mace, pepper sprays or another type of defensive spray.

[Story continues below video]

Wagner then directed the discussion to razors. The board previously agreed that straight-edge razors should be prohibited, but felt some discussion should be given to disposable razors.

“To me it’s absurd for even a student not to have a disposable razor . . . it certainly doesn’t make sense for staff,” Wagner said.

The board agreed to remove wording from its policy that referenced defensive sprays, and to add language prohibiting the sprays for students who are not in high school. The board also agreed to clarify a clause which would allow razors for personal shaving reasons only. Both policies were adopted as amended, but the defensive sprays clause will not affect students until the policy appears in the 2016-17 student handbook.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.