An Ohio high school has come under fire for allowing several 11th-grade students to be pepper-sprayed during a presentation, but officials are standing by the decision (video below).
"Students were required to have parental permission and consent in order to participate in the voluntary exercise," Patricia Cleary, the superintendent of Barberton City School, said in a statement, according to WJW.
The school is approximately 40 miles south of Cleveland.
The May 12 incident was depicted in a viral video that has more than 228,000 views, as of the evening of May 18. In the footage, law and public safety students line up against a wall, and an officer blasts them with pepper spray. Many of them scream and cry in agony for a couple of minutes.
"As it went on and people kept screaming," student Madison Garland recalled to WJW. "I'm like, 'That's not that funny ... it's uncalled for.'"
Barberton community member Cheryl Spencer agreed.
"I understand how they do some things like that, but not for kids.”
However, some parents are defending the school.
"I definitely think it's wrong how upset people are getting," said Jennifer Sabo, the mother of one of the students involved. "If you don't want your kid to do it then don't have them do it, simple as that."
The YouTube video's caption says that the students were in a two-year program and had the choice to be "half-sprayed or fully-sprayed."
Before their children were subjected to the substance, parents were reportedly given a waiver that they had to sign, in which Barberton's police chief described the spraying as a part of "defensive tactics training" that they had learned throughout the class, notes Blue Lives Matter.
"Each student will have the option to be swabbed or receive a quick 'burst' to the facial area with this chemical agent," reads the waiver, according to Blue Lives Matter. "It will cause irritation and a burning sensation to the eyes and nasal area for approximately 30 minutes to one hour. This is a controlled and safe experience for the students and is completely voluntary."
According to Superintendent Cleary, the class instructor is a former police chief "and an experienced professional" when it comes to pepper spray. A school resource officer was also present for "added supervision."
"The intent of the training is to help the students gain an industry recognized credential in the law and public safety course curriculum that is offered by the Ohio Department of Education," she added in the statement.