Should Birmingham Police Be Allowed to Pepper Spray Students?

By Carla Murphy Jan 21, 2015

In a trial that began yesterday, eight Birmingham students are suing their local police department after being pepper sprayed by police working at their four high schools. One tenth grade girl, "K.B." according to a 2012 court order, was sprayed when she allegedly could not stop crying, or "calm down," after "a fellow student harassed her with lewd comments because she was pregnant." Other students had committed minor infractions like fighting or were being or had been detained by local police acting as "school resource officers." No criminal charges have been lodged against any of the students, according to plaintiff attorneys with the SPLC which reports:

From 2006 to 2011, police in Birmingham public schools – whose students are predominantly African American – used chemical weapons on about 300 students and in the vicinity of 1,250. By contrast, in the neighboring, largely suburban Jefferson County schools, chemical spray was used just once during that same period.

An attorney for the police argues for the schools’ violent atmosphere to be taken into account, as well as the fact that police are trained on how and when to use pepper spray. The SPLC wants a stop to the use of pepper spraying in schools or mandatory training and appropriate school supervision of police officers.

Learn more about this school discipline case on