LANCASTER, S.C. — Security officers confiscated pepper spray, Tasers, stun guns and THC-filled vape pens during random sweeps and searches at middle and high schools in Lancaster this week.
Safety director Bryan Vaughn said Thursday that the school district has been performing the searches at local schools after a series of incidents where students were caught with pepper spray.
“In a school campus, there is no need for it, there is no need to carry this type of thing,” Vaughn said.
Under state law and Lancaster County School District policy, pepper spray is considered a weapon and can be prosecuted as a felony or lead to expulsion from school.
At first, all of the students involved with the seizures were female students, prompting school officials to believe the girls were carrying the pepper spray were doing so as an added safety precaution, Vaughn explained.
However, after an investigation, school officials determined the girls were carrying the spray to be used to be proactive in attacking and bullying others.
One incident on a bus last week sent eight people and the bus driver to the hospital, Vaughn said. According to investigators, two girls engaged in a fight while the bus was in motion: one was carrying a stun gun and the other had pepper spray.
One of the girls sprayed the other with the pepper spray but wound up injuring several bystanders as well, including the bus driver, Vaughn said. Many of the students as well as the driver wound up going to the hospital to have their eyes flushed.
Over the course of the next few days, school leaders determined the rise in weapons on campus was stemming from disputes in the community spilling into the school day.
Safety officers brought portable metal detectors and drug and weapon-sniffing K9s to several of the school campuses this week.
Under the search and seizure procedures in Lancaster County School District, students are brought out of class one room at a time and pass through a portable metal detector set up in the hallway. While the students are in the hall, the dogs search the classroom, ferreting out potential weapons and drugs.
Vaughn said the searches and seizures produced pepper spray and stun guns. They also find approximately 7-10 vapes with illegal substances during the course of each search.
On the heels of several high-profile incidents with deadly consequences involving teenagers just across the state line in Charlotte, Vaughn said he is concerned about the rise in weapons they are uncovering in Lancaster.
“You pay attention to what’s going around with your neighbors,” Vaughn said. “We’re looking to see what’s going on everywhere else and looking at their strategies to see how they handle certain situations.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials recently announced plans to resume random weapon and safety screenings after a number of fights were reported and firearms were uncovered on campuses.