A North Carolina school board has decided to allow students to carry pepper spray, mace, razors, and other “purely defensive” items, according to a report from the Salisbury Post. The discussion of whether to allow such defensive weapons on campus is a continuation of a debate from April.
According to board chairman Josh Wagner, arguments in favor of amending the language ranged from not wanting to punish students because they “just happened to forget to check their purse every single day” to a comment from board member Chuck Hughes that “may be a pretty valuable tool to have” if the anti-LGBT HB2 law is struck down by a federal lawsuit.
“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.”
Opponents argued that the sprays could absolutely be used in something other than a defensive role. The board’s lawyer, Ken Soo, noted that there had been several instances of students macing teachers.
It’s a point that bears examination. Anyone born in the last century is aware that high school bathrooms are often focal points for bullying and violence, and transgender students are at more risk than most. Mic reports that while there are both no credible cases of a transgender person attacking anyone in a bathroom and no indication that transgender bathroom rights lead to any increase in sexual assaults, roughly 70 percent of transgender people have reported being denied access to, assaulted, or harassed when trying to use a bathroom.
Meanwhile, Time notes that transgender people are being murdered at historically high rates, and the Human Rights Commission recently highlighted the incidence of violence and harassment against trans teens.
So perhaps it is not unrealistic to assume that those weapons might be used in something other than a defensive capacity, and transgender people are badly outnumbered. While hard numbers are very difficult to come by, most estimates indicate that perhaps one in 100 people in America is openly transgender or gender non-conforming.
Board member Travis Allen was one of the more outspoken members in favor of altering board policies 5027 and 4333, the policies regarding weapons and other threats to safety, eventually trotting out the tired old “everything is a weapon” argument alongside a supporting fact that he “imagine[d].”
“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.
“I could do more damage with my laptop than I could with a bottle of pepper spray, it’s just a non-issue.”
Allen went on to argue that the same damage could be done with a spray bottle of Windex or ammonia.
Unfortunately, the board ultimately decided to allow students to carry mace, pepper spray, or other varieties of defensive spray. At which point, Chairman Wagner turned the discussion to razors. As per RT, the school board also decided to allow students to carry razors (disposable only) with the stipulation that they were allowed for personal shaving reasons only, which surely every high school student is inclined to do in a school bathroom.
Allen said, “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.”
But isn’t safety and responsibility exactly why these policies exist in the first place?
[Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]