Teens in Birmingham, Ala. schools have been routinely sprayed with mace and pepper spray as punishment for minor offenses. The Southern Poverty Law Center has now filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Birmingham City School District on behalf of students who've had chemicals used on them.
“We must ask ourselves, what kind of school system allows armed officers to come in and use mace on its children,” said Ebony Glenn Howard, lead attorney on the case for the Center.
Hundreds of students were arrested in the Birmingham City Schools last year for minor offenses that could have been taken care of in the principal’s office, according to the Center. The SPLC threatened to sue the Birmingham School Board last month if the Board did not agree to stop the practice of spraying kids, according to the Birmingham News.
The lawsuit claims the use of chemical weapons against children to enforce basic school discipline is unconstitutional. The Center is seeking financial damages for students and their parents.
The lawsuit also details how mace is used against restrained kids who pose no threat to themselves or others.
The suit points out that kids who are exposed to pepper spray and mace are at risk for several health effects, ranging from temporary vision loss to eye and skin blistering. They can also get life threatening symptoms like throat inflammation and swelling, which could make it hard for a child to breathe.
WBRC-TV tried to get in touch with the Birmingham School District and still has not gotten a response.
To read the full lawsuit, click here.