published Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Superintendent: 'No malicious intent' in Chickamauga Elementary School pepper spray incident

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    Chickamauga City Schools Superintendent Melody Day
    Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Two high school students who discharged pepper spray Monday in the Chickamauga Elementary School copier room showed poor judgment, but didn’t intend to cause any harm, the system’s superintendent said.

“There was no malicious intent,” said Melody Day, superintendent of Chickamauga City Schools.

The Gordon Lee High School students discharged their pepper spray containers “to check them out,” according to a letter sent home with elementary students Monday. The spray was the personal property of the students, but there should be no need for them to use it while at school, Day said.

The staff “acted quickly to address the odor issue,” and the whole occurrence — including evacuating the school, investigating the smell and inspecting students for any harm — took less than an hour, Day said.

She said Chickamauga City Schools sent a maintenance technician to investigate, and the investigation was completed quickly enough that emergency services did not need to be called.

Chickamauga City Manager Micheal Haney did not return a call seeking comment.

The older students were at the elementary school as part of a child development program taught at Gordon Lee, Day said. For the lab portion of the program, high school students are assigned to an elementary classroom to assist the teachers and tutor students.

The students involved were “good students” who just “didn’t realize what would happen” as a result of their actions, the superintendent said.

Day declined to provide any information on the punishments received by the students.

“It was a learning experience for all,” she said, “though not one that was wanted.”

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at 423-757-6592 or aharris@timesfreepress.com.

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