On Wednesday morning during a class change at Douglas County High School (roughly 20-miles from Atlanta), students sprayed pepper spray in the hallways. Around 10:15 people began showing symptoms of the pepper spray affecting them.
“I feel like this air like a wood chipper is going down my throat and I’m coughing like crazy and I feel like a little tear coming down,” Syia Branch, a Sophomore, said. “You could hear everybody in the hallway coughing like crazy. I was like, ‘everybody is sick or is it something in the air.'”
Bria Brown, another student, added, “I was walking and all of a sudden you could see people coughing and it just hit you. It was just peppery something. I don’t know what it was. It just took over everything. I was choking. It just took over me. I was just coughing and coughing.”
By 10:30 am, the lower floor of the Banks Building was evacuated completely, while the rest of the school remained in a “business as usual” mode. Students and teachers were sent first to the football field, and then to the gym when it was deemed too cold outside. Custodians were quick to put up fans in the hallways to air out the pepper effect.
Authorities suspect that anywhere between 75 and 100 students were affected and exhibited symptoms (itching, trouble breathing, nausea, etc.) throughout the day.
The EMTs and fire department were called to the scene, but only two students were treated with minor issues. Principal Dr. Tim Scott was concerned there might be more due to the amount of children with asthma in the school. He told reporters that he wanted to be safe with the students and that more response was better than too little.
Students were allowed back into class at approximately 11 a.m.
Authorities found the three students responsible through use of surveillance footage.
“It was one can of pepper spray, but it was one kid sprayed some, and then another kid sprayed some and then the third kid sprayed some,” said Douglasville Police Captain J.R. Davidson about what he saw on the footage. “It was a couple of different locations. It wasn’t all in one place.”
The three students involved in the pepper spray incident said they found the can on school grounds and didn’t understand what it was. When they were done spraying it, they claimed they threw it over the fence outside.
All three students will be charged with disorderly conduct for disrupting the school.