Pepper Spray Controversy at MISD

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Midland ISD officials are saying it was the best way to protect the safety of the kids but parents claim it went too far.

Their stories of what happened aren't matching up.

Right before school started at Alamo Junior High around 8:15 a.m. Friday morning, a fight broke out in an enclosed courtyard between two girls.

MISD police told NewsWest 9 a crowd of 40 or 50 students gathered around the two fighters, a crowd that campus police officer Darek Jackson couldn't break apart despite giving multiple warnings.

"At that point, he pulled out the pepper spray and gave a warning that it would be used if they didn't disperse for him," MISD Police Chief, David Colburn, said. "He applied one short burst in the air. The crowd immediately dispersed at that time."

The officer was able to get the fighters broken up after using the pepper spray.

Colburn said around five or six children were sprayed and treated by the nurse.

MISD Superintendent Ryder Warren confirmed that information, as he was there at the scene as well.

But Alamo parent Lena Margita, who said her son, Kensington, was sprayed, claims Kensington told her he was given no warning.

"They heard shouting and the pepper spray happened right afterwards," Margita said. "He had chemical burns across his shoulders. Also, he's an asthmatic. He did have three asthma attacks today."

Colburn said the children could have been injured had the officer tried to physically pull them apart.

Other parents who chose to speak off-camera voiced their outrage against the spraying.

"I just don't think, as an adult, you should go to that extreme in taking care of a situation like that," another parent said.

Margita said her son suffers from asthma and extreme skin sensitivity.

Colburn said even if that's the case, that's why the warnings were given.

"You might have individuals who have asthma, or have skin rashes, and of course that's why the officers give the warning before they use that spray," he said.

"If they believe that the use of a weapon against our children to disperse a crowd, it is not reasonable," Margita said.

Warren told NewsWest 9 they had received 15 calls from parents complaining about the incident.

Colburn said the officer's actions were justified by all the warnings he gave but parents like Margita want the policy of breaking up fights at school changed.