Pepper Spray Suit - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Pepper Spray Suit

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A Federal court says all Birmingham students will be represented in a pepper spray lawsuit. It seeks to end use of the spray by police in schools. It says the spray is used against children who are restrained and pose no threat to themselves or others.

This ruling makes the case a class action lawsuit against the Birmingham Police Department. The lead attorney says many students could be exposed to the chemicals when mace is sprayed. Without the class action status, the lawsuit would only benefit a handful of students.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has asked for a trial date for its 2010 suit against the Birmingham Police Department's use of pepper spray in schools.

A recent federal court ruling has now made the case a class action lawsuit after plaintiffs requested to represent all students affected by the police department's mace policy.

Lead Attorney on the case, Ebony Howard says "This is no longer a case involving 8 kids, these 8 kids, very brave kids, now stand for every single current and future Birmingham City High School Student." The SPLC says pepper spray used in schools exposes all students to the chemicals. It says the police department has not provided officers specific training on the appropriate use of pepper spray in a school setting.

"How students are treated ultimately affects how they're treating others, how they grow up, how they view police officers." Quinn Rallins with Birmingham Faith in Action says there needs to be another method of discipline. "I've gotten a chance to meet some of the parents and young people who been caught up in this trauma and I see the psychological affects, I see some of the long term and short term affects."

The lawsuit says the majority of pepper spray incidents are for petty offenses and some parents worry children are getting the wrong message. Anneshia Johnson says "These are after all kids and the purpose of the educational system is to condition our kids to behave socially in the world as well as educating them."

The SPLC says the police department has filed a motion asking the court to dispose the issue.

The Birmingham Police Department referred ABC 33/40 to the city for a comment, but the spokesperson could not give an interview because of pending litigation. As for the Birmingham School System, no one has commented on the case, because it's excluded from the suit.

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