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Olen Bruner: What was school board thinking?

By Olen Bruner

Special to the Salisbury Post

Several days ago I picked up a paper, and to my surprise, or chagrin, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted to allow in next year’s school term the ability to carry pepper spray into our high schools. What were you thinking?

Our nation decries the use of chemical warfare in other countries. You, however, want to allow these toxic chemicals to be carried by our children for self-defense in our schools.

This is a product used by law enforcement to contain and subdue criminals. What were you thinking? Have you ever been in a small space when pepper spray has been released? Allow me to share some of the effects of this chemical product, whose active ingredient is oleoresin capsicum.

This product causes inflammation in the eyes, causing tearing and burning, making it impossible to see very well. Some people vomit when this product is used. If hit in the face, the nose and throat will swell up, making breathing difficult. Non-stop coughing may last between 20 and 25 minutes. People with asthma may even die, and who is going to be liable for such an action?

The product is also a skin irritant. It also causes a muscle coordination problem due to disorientation caused by temporary blindness and difficulty in breathing. If this product is released in a stairwell, children will be falling down the stairs, incurring injury. Will that not be another lawsuit?

What were you thinking? Is this the product you want to put in the hands of adolescents? Did you not take into account just how many times this chemical might be released in a classroom for the fun of it? How many times will it be released in the hallways, creating how many school closings based on a chemical bomb being released into the air? You do not have enough snow days to cover it all.

What were you thinking? Do we have hundreds of unreported high school rapes taking place that warrant this type of defensive response? Maybe the lunch money bandits are running amok in all our high schools.

Are we adults being driven by some unknown fear or apprehension causing us to lose our minds? We should not be arming our children to do battle with chemical weapons in school.

The answer ought to be a policy to protect our children and safeguard teachers and staff. Disciplinary policy needs to be ongoing. After so many suspensions, the school system ought to require parents to take training in effective parenting before the student may return to class. If there is no change in the child’s behavior, we may need to invite Social Services into the lives and care of these children — yes, in their own homes. We may have to remove from a home all of the children, due to the behavior issues documented, and declare the parents unfit. This action may deny parents any welfare assistance. However, in times like these we all must be willing to think inside and outside the box in order to effectively educate our children.

For the last time, what were you thinking?

The Rev. Olen Bruner is pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

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