Release of Pepper Spray Causes Evacuation of Two Schools in Ontario

Release of spray into open, shared space, illustrates dangers of bio threats on world's schools


AJAX, Ont. -- Two schools that share a cafeteria in Ajax, Ont., were evacuated on Tuesday after students complained of burning eyes and throats, police said.

None of the staff or 3,000 students were admitted to hospital but some students were taken by paramedics for testing, Durham Regional police Sgt. Paul McCurbin told Toronto news station CP24.

"No long-term care at this point seems to be required," he said.

Students interviewed outside the school, east of Toronto, said the problems started when someone used pepper spray.

"People just started coughing," one girl told CFTO-TV News. "It was all in one area, and then it spread throughout the whole air."

Firefighters were called to J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate after a staff member became ill early Tuesday, McCurbin said.

Officials evacuated the high school and, as a precaution, Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School, which is joined to Richardson by the cafeteria, McCurbin said.

"The decision was made to evacuate the school," said Richardson principal Cheryl Karakokkinos. "The fire alarm was pulled and the students were directed outside."

Some students and staff were allowed to return for personal items after the school was vented, but the schools were to remain closed for the day, McCurbin said.

The fire department is investigating, he added.

It was the second such incident in two days, CFTO reported, adding that police believe that they have video surveillance footage of the suspect and charges may be laid.