SOUTH DEERING — More than two dozen students were hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after a 14-year-old girl mistakenly shot off pepper spray inside a South Deering elementary school, authorities said.
The incident happened inside Marsh Elementary School in the 9800 block of South Exchange Avenue about 12:30 p.m., said Officer John Mirabelli, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.
A 14-year-old student was in a lunchroom line wearing a canister of pepper spray around her neck, Mirabelli said. But the girl told others that the bottle contained her inhaler medication, Mirabelli said.
Another 14-year-old student, who apparently didn't know what was inside the canister, pressed the trigger on the bottle and ended up releasing the pepper spray, Mirabelli said, leaving some students with trouble breathing and other symptoms of discomfort.
Multiple ambulances came to the school, and 26 students were taken in good condition to area hospitals. Some students were treated on the scene, Mirabelli said.
School officials would not comment. CPS district officials could not immediately be reached.
Mary Flores, who lives across the street from Marsh Elementary, saw seven or eight ambulances at the school and kids walking out with their eyes covered around 1 p.m. She immediately called the principal to see what happened.
"She said, 'Your babies are okay. There was an incident with eighth graders,'" said Flores, 77, whose two grandkids attend the school.
She said the strict rules at the school should have prevented anything like this from happening. There are metal detectors and all bags are searched, parents said.
"It's bad enough they have to have clear book bags and they don't know a kid has pepper spray," said Flores.
Parents lined up outside the school before dismissal Wednesday said they hadn't been notified ahead of time about what happened.
Anturo Marin said his oldest son, who has asthma, was taken to Trinity Hospital, but was doing alright.
"They didn't let the parents know," said Marin, 36. "That's wrong."
Lou Clay said one of her daughters was hit by the spray. She sprinted to her car after picking up another daughter at the school.
"My daughter is in the hospital for getting maced. My problem is, you argue and complain about book bags and she still got the mace into school," Clay said.
"That's bad. You know they got all the metal detectors, how come they didn't detect that?" said Jaunita Chavez, who was picking up her granddaughter. "Why would they bring something like that to school?"