Elementary Students Sick After Sheriff’s Training Exercise Goes Wrong

A training exercise conducted by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office took a turn for the worse on Tuesday when chemical agents used in the exercise extended beyond designated areas, resulting in exposure for students and staff at a nearby elementary school. The incident occurred at the San Bruno jail during a crowd control training session that involved the testing of tear gas and pepper spray.

According to Tara Moriarty, the Director of Communications for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, tear gas and pepper spray are commonly employed by law enforcement agencies as non-lethal means to subdue violent individuals. However, in an unforeseen turn of events, the gas seeped outside the training area and impacted Portola Elementary School, causing symptoms such as burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat for both teachers and students.

Officials confirmed that several students at the elementary school reported feeling sick after being exposed to the tear gas and pepper spray. Although none of the injuries were life-threatening, the incident raises serious concerns about the safety protocols in place during training exercises. 

John Nazar, the interim principal of Portola Elementary School, described the confusion and difficulties faced by school staff as they grappled with the situation. Nazar expressed astonishment upon learning that tear gas and pepper spray were the cause of the issues, leaving him uncertain whether to keep the children indoors or outdoors.

While the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies have been conducting training exercises at the site for over two decades, Moriarty emphasized the gravity of the situation and issued a departmental apology to the school community, acknowledging the fear and distress experienced by the children.

In response to the incident, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office has decided to halt all future chemical agent training exercises. The department will conduct a thorough review of its current practices to ensure the safety of the community and mitigate any potential impacts.

The chemical exposure incident at Portola Elementary School highlights the importance of robust safety protocols during law enforcement training exercises.