WKYT Investigates | FCPS police use of pepper spray has increased, documents show

An incident Friday was the 11th time in five years that officers have used pepper spray on students.
An incident Friday was the 11th time in five years that officers have used pepper spray on students.
Published: Oct. 20, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Fifteen students were in the area, officials said, when a school police officer deployed pepper spray Friday morning in an effort to stop a fight in the Henry Clay High School cafeteria.

The incident marked the 11th time Fayette County Public Schools police have used pepper spray on students in the past five years, according to school district records reviewed by WKYT Investigates.

Incident reports and after-action reviews obtained through an open records request describe 10 other incidents going back to 2018. Five were during the 2022-23 school year alone.

Six of the 10 incidents happened at Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, the district’s alternative school. Other incidents happened at Lexington Traditional Magnet School, Lafayette High School and Tates Creek High School (twice).

Nine of the 10 previous incidents involved Black students, a WKYT Investigates review of the incident reports found.

A district spokesperson did not comment Friday afternoon in response to questions about the FCPS Police Department’s use of pepper spray against students.

In February, one Tates Creek student who was part of the District Safety Advisory Council expressed concern about officers using pepper spray.

“Me personally, I have a great relationship with the officers at our school,” Devon Young said at the meeting on Feb. 9, “but I know that some of our students at Tates Creek do not trust the officers due to certain instances that happened throughout the year, such as pepper spray being used for petty fights that pepper spray did not have to be used.”

Fayette County Public Schools has its own police department.

In all of the incidents that had reviews conducted and included as part of the file, supervisors concluded that the officers’ decisions to use pepper spray were warranted. (Three incidents either did not have reviews conducted or included in the file.)

It is legal for school police to use pepper spray on students, Kentucky Department of Education officials have said previously.

State education regulations do not prohibit the “lawful exercise of law enforcement duties by sworn law enforcement officers.” Outside of that, regulations and policies do not allow school personnel to use pepper spray on students.

In addition to those incidents involving students, in May an FCPS police officer reportedly deployed pepper spray on a driver in the student pickup line at Dixie Magnet Elementary School.