41 students taken to hospital after being pepper-sprayed at Florida middle school


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WTLV) – More than 40 Florida middle schoolers were taken to several hospitals Friday after someone released pepper spray during gym class.

The incident happened during the afternoon at Highlands Middle School in Jacksonville.

Teachers and staff evacuated the gym and called for medical help. Forty-one students were taken to five local hospitals for treatment.

Authorities say all of the injuries are considered to be minor.

School police say they’ve reviewed school video and have identified students of interest. But officers won’t interview those students until Monday because they too were exposed to the chemicals.

A seventh-grader who was in the gym when the pepper spray was released described to WTLV First Coast News what happened.

“Everybody started running out the gym and then when I came outside, everybody was coughing, praying,” said William Cosby. “Somebody threw up. It looked like blood but somebody threw up… I just called mom and told her what happened and she handled the situation.”

“It felt like a burning feeling in my chest and my throat. It felt like I was barely able to breathe. And I was barely able to talk.”

One parent described the concerns she had for her son’s wellbeing after the incident occurred.

“I need to get to my child because he has asthma and I don’t know what the situation could be,” said Stacy Ratcliff. “My immediate thought was getting to my child and checking on him.”

At the time of the incident, about 80 students were in the gym, according to Michael Edwards, chief of school police.


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