Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio have opened an investigation into an event, which took place at Euclid middle school on Monday, April 22, 2002. According to media accounts and preliminary interviews with parents, two security guards sprayed three tables of students with a chemical pepper foam in an effort to break up a fight between two twelve year old boys.

The incident resulted in several children not involved in the altercation being covered in stinging chemical foam. Preliminary reports indicate that the students were dismissed early, and suffered from a wide variety of physical effects, ranging from burning skin and stinging eyes to repeated vomiting.

The ACLU has promised to investigate the matter thoroughly, and has already contacted school officials, police and parents in an effort to gather additional information. What is clear at this point is that security guards resorted to chemical irritants in a school cafeteria in an effort to stop a fight by two pre-teen boys.

“We cannot condemn too strongly the decision to use chemical irritants in a way that affected innocent children,” said Raymond Vasvari, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio. “This is a school, not a prison, and it boggles the imagination to think that adults would have to resort to using weapons to control something as routine as fisticuffs between twelve year old boys.”

According to the ACLU, schools have shown an increased willingness to resort to taken harsh and even dramatic disciplinary measures against students since the tragic events at Columbine High School in April 1999. “In many districts, overreaction has become par for the course,” said Jillian Davis, ACLU of Ohio Staff Counsel.

Euclid schools have developed a reputation locally and statewide for their emphasis on anticipating and countering threats of student violence. “It seems their system needs some refinement, in light of an incident like this,” added Davis in a prepared statement issued today.