URBANA – Twenty students went to the hospital after someone sprayed pepper spray in Urbana Middle School early Thursday afternoon. A 14-year-old student was arrested in the incident.
"There were some who were in the direct area of the release and a few who were transported to the hospital just for precaution," said Mike Dilley, division chief of the Urbana Fire Department, which responded to the call at 12:42.
The 14-year-old male student was arrested on juvenile charges of unlawful use of a weapon for the incident, according to Urbana police.
Lt. Anthony Cobb said Urbana police were called to the school at 12:30 p.m. on a report that a student, whose identity was not yet known, had sprayed pepper spray in two hallways of the school.
School officials quickly recognized that pepper spray was involved and began to move students to safety. Students in the immediate area where the spray had been were taken to the school gym, according to Cobb. At that time, the male student discharged another burst of the pepper spray.
School officials were able to identify who was responsible and separated him from the other students, Cobb said. He was taken to the Champaign County Youth Detention Center, where he remained this morning.
Fifteen of the students were treated at Provena Covenant Medical Center, with no major injuries, said Kim Garrison-Clanton, spokeswoman at Covenant. Five students went to Carle Foundation Hospital and were treated and released, said Allison McLaughlin, Carle spokeswoman.
At the scene, Dale Grimm, supervisor of Carle Arrow Ambulance, said 15 of the students were classified as "green," meaning they were walking and needed minimal care.
Grimm said pepper spray causes irritation of the eyes and upper respiratory tract.
The incident happened in the southwest side of the school, in a hallway on a wing with seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms, said Urbana school district spokesperson Kathy Wallig. Sixth-graders were "nowhere near where the spray was," she said.
"Urbana Fire was notified immediately," Wallig said. "There were kids who were exposed directly to the spray."
Students in that area were evacuated immediately, first outside and then to Urbana High School and the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center before returning to the school once it was deemed safe, Wallig said.
"Kids were not outside in the elements very long," she said just after 1:30 p.m. "Everybody's back where they're supposed to be now."
Wallig said some of the students were "frightened and panicked" but that overall they followed the evacuation procedure very well.
About half an hour after the call, Dilley said, the fire department had released the building back to the school.