Somebody sprayed pepper spray in a girls’ bathroom at Seneca Valley High School this on Monday afternoon. The incident sent 13 people to local hospitals suffering the effects of inhaling the pepper spray.
According to Seneca Valley High School Principal Marc Cohen, the incident began shortly after noon. “During the lunch shift there was a very strong smell coming from one of the bathrooms in our math wing,” said Cohen. “A couple of kids came into the health room reporting that they felt some congestion in their chest. The smell was pretty strong, and it seemed to us to be pepper spray. Because smell was permeating through that entire side of the building and our entire math wing was reporting that they could smell it and feel it. We decided to evacuate the building to make sure that everyone was safe.”
The building was evacuated with almost the entire school moving down to the lower field which is not part of the construction site for the new high school. The evacuation site is at the northeast corner of the school property, at the intersection of Middlebrook Road and Great Seneca Highway.
Montgomery County Police and Fire Rescue Service units arrived and parked along eastbound Middlebrook Road, where affected students were evaluated and transported to local hospitals. According to MCFRS senior spokesman Pete Piringer 13 people, 10 students and three staff members were taken to local hospitals as precautionary measures as they were suffering non-life threatening effects from the exposure to the pepper spray.
“We did have a number of students transported by ambulance to the hospital,” said Cohen. “None of the students were suffering from a significant injury.”
Cohen did not offer any explanation for how or why the pepper spray was released, or by who, but said the incident was under investigation by both school officials and Montgomery County Police. “We have cameras
throughout the building. While we don’t have cameras in the bathroom and it does seem that the smell originated in a bathroom. We think we can localize the time. We are going to cooperate with law enforcement to figure out who did this because they created a significant disruption to the school. I don’t know what, if any, consequences they might face, but I imagine there would be some pretty serious consequences as a result.”
The all-clear was given to students and staff to return to the school at about 1:00 pm on Monday. MCPD and MCFRS had two lanes of eastbound Middlebrook Road blocked as they evaluated students and investigated the incident. MCPD also closed Crystal Rock Drive between Wisteria Drive and Middlebrook Road in front of the school while the school was evacuated.
Top: Fire Rescue Service units stacked up along Middlebrook Road near the lower field of Seneca Valley High School were students were evacuated after a pepper spray incident in a girls’ bathroom forced the school to be evacuated.
Next: Students evacuated to the lower field at the northeast corner of the school property at the corner of Middlebrook Road and Great Seneca Highway.
Next: MCFRS EMS evaluated a number of students, ultimately transporting 10 students and three staff members to local hospitals out of an abundance of caution. All suffered non-life threating exposure to the pepper spray.
Next: MCPD closed Crystal Rock Drive for the duration of the event. Students and staff were let back into the school shortly after 1:00 pm.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.