School evacuated again; pepper spray used, officials say

School evacuated again; pepper spray used, officials say

A Madison middle school was evacuated again Tuesday after students again started coughing because of an irritant in the air.

O’Keeffe Middle School officials told News 3 evidence from video cameras showed a student using pepper spray.

“We believe a student deployed pepper spray in a small section of a hallway that caused an irritation in students’ throats,” said Alex Fralin, Madison Metropolitan School District’s chief of schools.

Students and teachers in several classrooms at O’Keeffe at 510 S. Thornton Ave. began coughing Monday morning, which prompted an evacuation of the school, officials said. Crews were unable to determine what caused the problem on Monday.

The school was evacuated again at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday because of the same concerns. The students were kept at nearby churches until the all-clear was given at 11:30 a.m.

“We got a call about kids mysteriously coughing, very similar to yesterday’s call,” said Cynthia Schuster, with the Madison Fire Department.

Two students were treated and released to their parents.

Marquette Elementary School was also evacuated on Tuesday as a precaution.

Air samples are being sent to the state crime lab, and the building was ventilated.

On Monday, Madison Fire Department crews arrived around 10:05 a.m. and talked with the principal and people who experienced the symptoms. The people involved said they didn’t smell anything unusual and they didn’t see any vapors or gases in the air.

Students and teachers did say the source of the airborne irritant seemed to be coming from a stairwell, extending from the first, second and third levels of the school, officials said.

Firefighters monitored the air, but didn’t pick up anything out of the ordinary, according to the release. The MFD Hazardous Incident Team got to the school around 11:10 a.m. and did multiple sweeps of the school, but were unable to determine what had been in the air.

During the incident, one student was treated by medics on scene, officials said. That student and three others were taken home by their parents.