Student mistakes pepper spray for body fragrance: 'Everybody started running out the gym'

A Florida middle school student mistook a can of pepper spray for body fragrance, later leading to the hospitalization of 41 students, WJXT reports.

On Feb. 28, a seventh-grade student at Highlands Middle School in Jacksonville brought the canister for personal use, when another student reportedly took it and applied it as if it were body fragrance. The students were in a fifth-period physical education class when the incident occurred.

According to the station, school staff immediately evacuated everyone from the gym to the football field.

“Everybody started running out the gym and then, when I came, outside everyone was coughing, crying,” William Cosby, a student at Highland, told WJXT. “Someone threw up. It looked like blood, so when I saw that I just called my mom.”

That same day, Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Chief Keith Powers told the station that several of the students had been brought to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

“All of them had very, very minor injuries,” he said.

A week later, the school’s principal, Evan P. Daniels, announced that the student who took the pepper spray was issued a juvenile civil citation. The student who originally had possession of the canister would also face “appropriate disciplinary consequences for bringing a prohibited item on campus,” Daniels added.

“While this was obviously a major disruption, the investigation revealed that there was no intention to disrupt school, and therefore, there is no basis for more serious charges,” the principal said in a message to parents.

As of March 6, an investigation into the incident was ongoing.

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