Three students release pepper spray in IS 59: Cops

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Three junior high school students were arrested last week on charges of releasing a hazardous chemical, probably mace or pepper spray, into the second-floor hallway of their Springfield Gardens school, causing 84 students and teachers to fall ill, police said.

Many students and parents at the school, IS 59 at 132-55 Ridgewood St., said the chemicals were sprayed into a vent. School officials declined to comment.

Two of the boys arrested were 13 and one was 15, said Detective Carolyn Chew, a Police Department spokeswoman. Their names were not released because they are minors.

The school, which teaches grades six through eight, is for the “gifted and talente,” and lies within the bounds of District 29.

Asthmatic students and teachers suffered attacks after the chemical were released, while other complained of burning sensations and pain.

Most of the medical reactions probably occurred long after the initial chemical release at 8 a.m. because emergency crews were not called until 10:32 a.m., said Chief William Day of the Emergency Medical Service.

Day said four children and three adults were taken to area hospitals. He suspected the chemical was pepper spray.

“They are all fine,” he said. “Most were asthmatics, some were stressed over the whole thing, which triggered some response, not necessarily from the pepper spray.”

Mary Immaculate Hospital treated and released three children and three adults from the school, said Juliet Lewis, a hospital spokeswoman. None were seriously injured.

“Most of this is sympathy,” Day said, pointing to the line of ambulances outside the school. “One of them goes to the hospital, so the others want to go.”

Day said the EMS ordered the building emptied, while school officials and a medical doctor gathered all the asthmatic children in an unaffected area of the school and kept a close eye on them.

“The rest of them are in the school yard getting some fresh air,” Day said the day of the incident. “If they are not in the building, they are less likely to be psychologically affected.”

Ranell Johnson, 13, of Cambria Heights was one of the students removed from the school in a wheelchair and placed in an ambulance.

His aunt, Tasha Johnson, came to school to check on him, but was not particularly disturbed by the incident.

“It’s just something that happens,” she said. “Kids are kids.”

Margie Moore, mother of Alysha, 11, and a retired police officer, was much more upset. As the suspects were whisked away in police cars, she pointed at them in frustration.

“I knew it was going to happen with all the mess that is going on at the schools,” Moore said of the recent school shootings across the nation. “There was no doubt that it was going to spread through the country.”

Alysha Moore, who is in the sixth grade at IS 59, said she saw a classmate pull her shirt over her nose and complain that the room smelled like pepper, but none of the other students in the class were bothered by it.

“I’m just glad I didn’t smell it,” she said. Alysha suffers from asthma, so her mother was concerned the chemicals could trigger an attack, but they did not.

Antwann Parks and Derrek Brartcher, both 11, said they saw a classmate suffering after inhaling the chemicals.

“She was all red,” one of them said. “She said she couldn’t breath.”

Many parents or other relatives came to pick up their children from school.

Sheryl Leverett, the mother of a IS 59 student, said she was relieved to find her son was all right. He stayed at school for the remainder of the day.

Leverett, who lives in Jamaica, said she thought the incident was related to “how easily violence tends to be a part of what they experience every day.”

“It was not a gun, we can thank God for that,” Leverett said. She did not think it was meant to be a violent act, but more of a mischievous stunt.

Kevon Williams, 12, said the incident was unfortunate, but he was glad to get out of school early.

“Some of the kids were hurt, they said their eyes hurt, they had pains and cramps,” Williams said, wondering why anyone would spray the school and hurt their fellow students.

“They learned from other schools,” said his mother, Antoninette Williams. Both were surprised it happened at IS 59.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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