BARBERTON, Ohio – Students were voluntarily blasted with pepper spray for a law enforcement class exercise at an Ohio high school, and officials are now defending against calls to fire the teacher involved.
Last week, a group of 11th grade criminal science students at Barberton High School voluntarily lined up along a wall at the school and received a blast of pepper spray in the face from teacher Jeremy Milford, a former police chief, Cleveland.com reports.
Milford secured permission from parents before the voluntary defensive tactics training. Signed permission slips stated students could choose “to be swabbed or receive a quick ‘burst’ to the facial area with this chemical agent.”
“It will cause irritation and a burning sensation to the eyes and nasal area for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour,” the slip read. “This is a controlled and safe experience for the students and is completely voluntary.”
In the video, which has received a lot of attention online, students scream in pain once the pepper spray set in, with many of them yelling “Oh, my God!” and “Ahh, it burns!”
“It feels like a volcano in my eyes!” one girl screamed.
For about two minutes, more than a dozen students continued to scream in agony as others cheered them on.
The video was apparently too much for some folks to handle.
“As it went on and people kept screaming, I’m like, ‘That’s not that funny … it’s uncalled for,’” student Madison Garland told WJW.
Barberton City School District officials defended the exercise and explained the rationale behind it in a prepared statement to Fox 8.
“On Friday May 12, 2017 as part of the Criminal Science Technology Career Tech Education course at Barberton High School, students had an opportunity to voluntarily participate in an activity in which they would be subjected to a small amount of pepper spray for a brief period of time. The activity was conducted by the class instructor, who is a former police chief, and an experienced professional. Added supervision was provided by the school’s resource officer,” the statement read.
“Students were required to have parental permission and consent in order to participate in the voluntary exercise. The intent of the training is to help the students gain an industry recognized credential in the law and public safety course curriculum that is offered by the Ohio Department of Education.”
Several students and parents also defended the district.
“I definitely think it’s wrong how upset people are getting,” parent Jennifer Sabo said, “if you don’t want your kid to do it then don’t have them do it, simple as that.”
“I was the girl on the very right,” Karis Ann posted in the YouTube video comments. “This was all voluntary, we all had to sign permission slips, along with our parents permission.
“We are in a criminal science class that allows us to get a ‘sneak peak’ of the law enforcement,” she wrote. “You get OC pepper sprayed in the academy, just like we did.”