Pepper spray release sends 36 students to hospital

Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 9:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 9:54 p.m.

BRANDON — Thirty-six students and a school employee were hospitalized after a student discharged pepper spray Friday at a Tampa Bay area middle school.

The incident happened at McLane Middle School in Brandon, according to The Tampa Bay Times ( ).

Hillsborough County school district spokesman Stephan Hegarty said 93 students and three teachers were affected. They experienced coughing, watery eyes and scratchy throats. About three dozen people were hospitalized, though the injuries appeared to be minor. All were treated and released.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has charged a 12-year-old girl with disruption of a school function. She was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center. The child's name was not released. Deputies are still investigating whether the incident was premeditated.

Solanch Echevarria, 14, told reporters she was in school when all of a sudden someone started spraying pepper spray.

"Everybody was running out of the 200 building," she said, referring to the building with mostly sixth-grade classes where the incident occurred. "There was crying and screaming."

Two of Echevarria's friends were affected by the spray; one experienced burning eyes and another had difficulty breathing.

The student described the incident as being "like a horror movie."

The hall where the pepper spray was released was evacuated and a triage center was set up in the school cafeteria.

McLane principal Frank Oliver said he was disappointed by the charged student's actions.

"We live in a time where kids don't take things as seriously as they should," Oliver said. "I'm sure the person who did this didn't know all of this was going to happen and didn't expect there would be all of this attention."

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