A city police officer just cleared for using pepper spray against a middle school student used the spray again Tuesday to subdue a high school student.
Police announced Monday that officer Laura Steele was justified in using pepper spray against the 11-year-old female Southwest Middle School student Feb. 2.Tuesday, police spokesman Lt. Marty Sumner confirmed that Steele used pepper spray again, this time to subdue a 16-year-old male student at Southwest High School.
A report of the incident was not available late Tuesday. Sumner did not know the name of the student.
Sumner said the student has been charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The 11-year-old student was charged with the same crimes.
Sumner said Steele, the school resource officer assigned to both schools, was summoned to the high school's office Tuesday afternoon for a report of a disorderly student. Steele tried to arrest the student, but he resisted and appeared to draw back a fist against her, Sumner said.
That's when Steele used the pepper spray to subdue the boy, Sumner said.
As with the previous incident, the use of force will be investigated by the department's Professional Standards Division, Sumner said. The department does not prohibit the use of pepper spray against students and considers it a preferable alternative to more violent means of restraining disorderly students.
But all uses of pepper spray are subject to an internal investigation, Sumner said.
Officers used pepper spray fewer than 50 times all of last year and fewer than 10 times in school settings, Sumner said. It's rare that a school resource officer such as Steele would have to use it twice in one month.
``It's very unusual,' he said.
Damon Ford, a Guilford County Schools spokesman, said the school system is looking into the actions of school employees during the incident but not the actions of the officer.
``We are investigating the actions of our employees. The SROs are not employees of the Guilford County Schools,' he said.
Ford said there is no timetable for the school system's investigation of the incident and no word on when the report will be released.
On Feb. 2, Steele was summoned to the office of Southwest Middle by Principal W.O. Farkas because the girl was being disorderly, according to a police summary of the incident. When Steele tried to handcuff her, the girl made a move that Steele interpreted as being threatening toward the principal and used the pepper spray against her.
High Point police will be reviewing their procedures involving the use of pepper spray within the next two months. That review already had been planned before either of the incidents involving Steele. occurred.