Dozens of Kids Injured by Pepper Spray in Queens School

By Ben Fractenberg and Joe Parziale  on October 16, 2012 2:53pm  | Updated on October 16, 2012 3:33pm

 The FDNY responded to a South Ozone Park school after an 11-year-old girl released pepper spray in the school's cafeteria, Oct. 16, 2012.
The FDNY responded to a South Ozone Park school after an 11-year-old girl released pepper spray in the school's cafeteria, Oct. 16, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Joe Parziale

SOUTH OZONE PARK — At least 34 students were injured, including 11 who were hospitalized, when a young student accidentally released pepper spray in the school's cafeteria Tuesday morning, according to witnesses and officials.

The incident happened at J.H.S. 226 at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd. about 10:30 a.m., forcing the cafeteria to be evacuated after the 11-year-old unleashed the noxious substance, police said.

"I know the girl who did it. Her mom gave her pepper spray because she walks home from school by herself," said a sixth-grader who was in the cafeteria when the incident happened and whose name DNAinfo is withholding because of his age. "After she sprayed it, it made my chest tight because of my asthma and it got in some of the kids' food."

Eleven students were taken to area hospitals for minor irritation and 22 others were treated at the scene, EMS Chief Debra Calley said. 

Another sixth-grader said a number of his classmates were exposed to the spray.

"Everybody started coughing and [the principal] told us to go [to] the auditorium," the student said.

The Department of Education said the girl was showing the pepper spray to her friends when she accidentally set it off. More than 34 students were affected, DOE officials said.

"EMS and FDNY are on the scene and treating the affected students," the DOE said in an email. "A doctor at the scene will look to treat and release the students at this point.... All parents and families are being contacted regarding the incident."

Police said the girl was not taken into custody after the incident.

Queens City Councilman Ruben Wills stopped by the scene and said he hoped school officials would be understanding.

"I would hate to see disciplinary action for something that was an accident," he said. "That responsibility will ultimately be with the [Department of Education]."

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