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Va. Bill Would Equip Unarmed School Guards With Pepper Spray, Stun Guns

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A Virginia lawmaker has proposed allowing the state's schools to equip unarmed guards with pepper spray and stun guns.

Republican Del. Mark Cole argues the guards, who are not allowed to be armed under state law, could use the weapons to ward off school intruders, the Associated Press reports.

"Opponents, including Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration, say they worry that stun guns and other such weapons could be turned against students," the AP reports. "They also point out that Cole's bill includes no training requirement."

The state's discussion comes as students in Birmingham, Ala., await a judge's decision in a federal lawsuit in which they allege school police were not justified in using pepper spray on about 200 unruly students over a five-year period.

Cole said he doesn't intend for the weapons to be used against students, AP reports.

Policymakers and education leaders in other areas have wrestled with the question of equipping school security with less-than-lethal weapons. The discussions have forced them to weigh sometimes competing public concerns about school shootings and the rights of students.

Acting Boston superintendent John McDonough called off planned November public hearings on arming school police with pepper spray after members of the public voiced concern about the plan.

"I think what we are hearing so far has persuaded me that pepper spray, no matter how well-developed the policy, and no matter how well-crafted the training, and no matter their good intention—might serve to drive a wedge between our students and the school police who do a great job protecting them every day," McDonough wrote in a statement reported in the Boston Herald.

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