FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Forsyth County school resource officers have a warning for students: if they’re fighting and don’t stop when an administrator, SRO or teacher tells them to, they could be pepper sprayed.
Pepper spray is something SROs have always had the ability to use.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office leaders say they were left searching for a way to stop the disruptions after a large fight broke out at a Mount Tabor football game.
“What we saw in the beginning of the school year was a drastic increase in the number of fights,” Captain Rick Ammons said.
Ammons described some of the fights as vicious and ugly. Administrators, kids and even deputies were getting hurt.
“Over the past year, I’ve had four that have been injured, whether it be a hand, a knee, an ankle, and these required surgeries where they’ve been out of work,” Ammons said.
Instead of getting hands-on and physically involved in fights, they are turning to pepper spray.
“The first thing they say is…’stop fighting. That’s two or I’m going to spray,’ and typically, they say it twice,” Ammons said. “They may say it 10 times. When they keep fighting, they spray the pepper spray, and it’s almost instant that the fighting stops.”
In 2023, FOX8 reported two pepper spray situations in Forsyth Count. One was inside Paisley Magnet School, and the other was on a Carver High School bus.
Parents worry their children could get caught in the middle.
“The idea that they are going to be harmed in any way, shape or form by the adults that are charged with their care, their safety, their success, is appalling,” Sloane Johnson said.
She has a middle schooler at Wiley Magnet Middle School.
To make kids aware of the consequences, an administrator sent a message to parents and families reminding them students in the vicinity of an altercation could be the victim of pepper spray if they are close by.
Parents tell FOX8 they would like their voices to be heard when it comes to disciplinary actions.
According to a Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesperson, all use of force decisions are made by the sheriff’s office, and leaders trust them to make proper decisions. They are also in constant contact and have a good working relationship.
School resource officers tell FOX8 students are getting the message.
“The pepper spray had its desired effect because we’ve had people that have been in multiple fights this year…say, ‘I don’t want any more of that,'”Ammons said.
His main focus among his SROs is to build long-term and trusting relationships with students, so they don’t turn to fighting in the first place.