Plaintiffs pleased with judge's ruling on pepper spray use in Birmingham schools

Plaintiffs pleased with judge's ruling on pepper spray use in Birmingham schools

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Plaintiffs in a federal case involving pepper spray use by Birmingham police officers in city schools say they are pleased with the ruling from U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon.

Kallon said in a ruling on Wednesday that pepper spray can be used by police officers in Birmingham schools, but he is requiring more training and restrictions of the use of the spray. Kallon heard testimony in the case earlier this year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on behalf students who were pepper sprayed. Attorneys said in court from 2006 to 2013 there had been 110 incidents of pepper spray in Birmingham schools. Two hundred students were directly maced and up to 1,000 students were exposed.

The court found that police used excessive force in reaching for the chemical spray to "deal with 'normal -- and at times, challenging -- adolescent behavior.'"

The judge called the use of spray on non-violent students unconstitutional, but the ruling does not keep police officers from using pepper spray in violent situations like a fight.

The ruling listed several things the police department and school system must have ready by Nov. 15, including developing a new training procedure and decontamination process for the pepper spray.

The decontamination process includes includes washing the victim's faces with water and providing students with sweat suits to change into after being maced.

School resource officers and police must also create a one-page flyer discussing the spray and how to get relief from the spray. These flyers must be displayed at schools and online.

"When you use this you have to be very careful and particular. The fact it's so dangerous, you want it be used in extremely very limited circumstances," SPLC attorney Ebony Howard said.

A 16-year-old who was pepper sprayed said this was a tough time for the family.

The girl who was identified as only at "BD" says after being maced she was distrustful of police officers who she believed were to there to protect her.

"It caused me a lot of emotional distress. It cause me a lot of depression. It caused me a lot of missed days from school. It caused me hair loss. It really took a toll on me," "BD" said.

The young woman had to wear a wig to school.

"BD"'s mother is also grateful for the ruling.

"The stress a parent goes through dealing with a child that has been peppered sprayed with no decontamination efforts at all won't have to happen to another parent," "BD"'s mother said.

Michael Choy, the attorney for the city of Birmingham, said no decision has been made about a possible appeal at this time. Choy has contended the city's training and procedures for pepper spray use was proper.

The city has been ordered to pay $40,000 and possibly the plaintiffs' attorney costs.

Related stories:

Pepper spray case moves closer to trial

Federal trial over mace in Birmingham schools starts Tuesday

Officers take the stand in Birmingham pepper spray trial 

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