TULSA, Okla. - Tulsa Public Schools officials tell KRMG that a fight at Memorial High School that ended with a security guard deploying pepper spray was handled appropriately.
KRMG spoke with Chris Payne, TPS Director of Public Information, about the incident. He confirms that there was a fight involving three students that took place shortly after lunch on Thursday. Two TPS police officers and a security guard tried to intervene, when the security guard was struck by a student.
Payne tells KRMG that the security guard's subsequent use of pepper spray was fully justified. Payne says, "We only use it in the most extreme cases, when there is an immediate threat to the officer or to protect students or TPS staff. The fight took place in a crowded hallway, and if the security guard had not reacted as quickly as he did with the pepper spray, it is likely that students would have had more significant injuries."
Payne says the three students who participated in the fight have all been suspended from school for the rest of the school year. Payne says, "It is our hope that parents will use this opportunity to talk with their students about appropriate conduct at school. Our security personnel responded appropriately to the situation.”
TPS Police Chief Gary Ruddick's policy on the use of OC (pepper spray): "The purpose of OC spray is as both a self-defense tool to control persons who pose a threat to the officer and to protect students or faculty/staff from others who are attempting to commit assault or battery. OC spray is not used to gain simple compliance to instruction but is designed to protect the officer from being assaulted and to protect others from the same. The use of OC spray is a use of force that is designed to gain control of an escalating situation with the understanding that the use in a closed and confined space may disrupt the school environment. Since it is disruptive, use is discouraged in all but the most serious cases of threatening behavior, assaults and fighting where students, faculty/staff or the officer personally is at risk of being injured."
Payne points out that the use of pepper spray at TPS has decreased significantly over the last couple of years. Payne tells KRMG that pepper spray was used about half-a-dozen times during the previous school year. Prior to having an in-house police department, pepper spray was used more frequently.