Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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Students’ parent enraged by school police’s ‘excessive’ use of pepper spray at Chaparral

Map of Chaparral


3850 Annie Oakley Dr., Las Vegas

A number of Chaparral High School students were pepper-sprayed after a fight broke out around lunchtime Friday at the school.

Parent Aaron Aguirre said he received distraught calls shortly after 12:30 p.m. from his son and daughter attending the central Las Vegas Valley school.

Chaparral junior Selena Aguirre, 17, told her father that school police officers used pepper spray to disperse a crowd of about 100 students who witnessed a fight in the school quad. Officers sprayed randomly in the air, affecting bystanders as well as the fighting students, Selena said.

In the melee, Selena — who said she was not involved in the fight — was hit in the face with pepper-spray, Aaron Aguirre said.

"She was upset and crying because she couldn't breathe," Aaron Aguirre said, adding that Selena's contact lenses were ruined as a result. "I'm (mad). She felt violated — she was sprayed for no reason."

Aaron Aguirre said he went straight to the school after the calls because he was concerned about the use of pepper spray on those involved in the fight and bystanders, too.

After speaking with a school police officer investigating the fight, Aaron Aguirre was not satisfied with their reasons for using pepper spray, he said.

"They used excessive force," Aaron said. "I don't think they should be using pepper spray in schools because some kids could be allergic. It's just wrong."

School District Police confirmed officers used pepper spray to disperse four or five students who started a fight in the school quad shortly after noon.

Five school police officers responded to the fight, police spokesman Ken Young said. Two of them were assigned to Chaparral, the other three were called in by central dispatch.

Officers gave a verbal warning and tried to physically separate the fighters before resorting to using pepper spray to stop the fight and scatter the crowd of bystanders, Young said.

No officers were injured in the fight. It is unknown how many students were affected by the pepper spray, Young said.

The incident is still under investigation, and officers do not know why the students began fighting, Young added.

One student was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer and obstruction of justice. Four other students were given citations for participating in the fight, he said.

School Police are allowed to carry and use pepper spray, just like any other police agency in town, Young said. Officers are trained to take note of location and the severity of the violence before using pepper spray, he said.

Young urged parents to tell their children to walk away from fights and to avoid being a bystander.

"Because (pepper spray) is a chemical agent, there is a fallout," Young said. "If people are in the vicinity, there's a good chance they may be affected."

Chaparral Principal Dave Wilson said the number of fights at the "turnaround" school have decreased from 142 in the 2010-11 school year to just nine in the 2011-12 school year.

Last year, Chaparral had changed its schedule so that lunch period was at the end of the school day, discouraging fights. Students were given two 15-minute "nutritional breaks" during the middle of the school day to eat their lunch, Wilson said.

However, the schedule was changed this year to add an additional period — or 35 extra instructional minutes — to the school day. The lunch period was moved to the middle of the school day, Wilson said.

So far this year, there have been four reported fights at the school, he said.

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