As North Carolina grapples with dueling federal lawsuits regarding its controversial, and potentially unconstitutional HB2 "bathroom bill," one local community has taken matters into their own hands—by letting teens arm themselves with pepper spray every time they use the toilet.
The Rowan-Salisbury school district this week voted to amend policy language that would allow students to carry certain types of defensive weapons, such as pepper spray and mace, into area high schools. Why? As school board member Chuck Hughes explained during the recent meeting:
"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."
Despite the fact that the "transgender bathroom predator" trope has been proven time and time again to be completely false, Hughes seems comfortable advocating for the arming of high school students with a decidedly dangerous set of weapons.
As a 2004 paper titled "Health Hazards of Pepper Spray" points out, pepper sprays are often significantly more dangerous than commonly believed, and their use can lead to profound consequences. The study's authors (ironically, researchers from the University of North Carolina and Duke University) write:
During the past decade, OC [Oleoresin capsicum] sprays have become popular with law enforcement and corrections personnel as non-lethal deterrent agents. But there is no real scientific basis for the claim that OC sprays are relatively safe. In fact, a number of reports have associated serious adverse sequelae, including death, with legitimate use, as well as misuse and abuse, of these sprays.
The Salisbury Post points out that Ken Soo, a lawyer for the school district, did voice concerns that there have been incidents in which pepper sprays were used by students against teachers in the past. Nevertheless, the motion was fully adopted by the board, and will go into effect with the district's printing of the 2016–2017 student handbook.