The controversial idea to allow high school students in Rowan-Salisbury Schools to carry defensive sprays and disposable razors on campus was repealed during the Monday night meeting of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
On Monday, May 9th, the board had voted to allow those items to be carried on campus, citing the need to protect students.
Much of the discussion centered on how those items were used for personal protection and should be something students would be allowed to carry.
"Having been pepper sprayed numerous times and being a school resource officer, the baseball bats that your baseball team brings every day to school is a bigger weapon than a canister of pepper spray, that's my thinking on it," said BOE member Travis Allen. "A chair from the cafeteria is a bigger weapon than a can of pepper spray, so that's my thinking on that."
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The reaction to that decision that school board members never anticipated.
The day after the vote, board chairman Josh Wagner sent a note to WBTV saying that the issue would come up again after several points regarding potential liabilities the board could face were brought to Wagner's attention.
"After yesterday's meeting, there have been several inquiries regarding the policy change. This is not a surprise. However, I have received a phone call today with concerns that were not relayed to our board yesterday," Wagner wrote on May 10. "Apparently, the board, as well as the system, may put it self in a vulnerable position by making the policy change regarding mace and pepper spray. Again, these concerns were not relayed in the meeting yesterday."
On Monday afternoon the May 9 vote was repealed and defensive sprays and disposable razors went back on the list of items that students are not allowed to carry on campus.
A side issue associated with the debate over the use of defensive sprays thrust the unwanted spotlight on the school board.
Board member Chuck Hughes said the use of pepper spray would be defensive in nature, and then referenced the North Carolina law that determines which bathroom transgender individuals may use, saying such sprays could help female students if they go to the bathroom and don't know who's coming in after them.
“Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in,” Hughes aid in the meeting.
Hughes later clarified his remarks after the initial comment was widely reported in the national media.
It even prompted the school system to address the comments.
"The board had a general discussion about items that were legal and illegal on school campuses," Rita Foil wrote in a statement to the media. "After consulting with the board attorney on the items prohibited by state law on school campuses and other educational property (North Carolina General Statute 14-269.2), the board approved a policy that followed the language of the state law."
"There was no board discussion about HB2. An individual board member made a comment that is not discussed or adopted by the full board."
"The board has requested additional information from school building staff about safety concerns related to the presence of personal defense sprays on campus and will consider revising its policy based on any concerns.
WBTV is the Observer’s news partner