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High school girl suspended for having pepper spray on keychain

AMBRIDGE, Pa. — Madison Mihalic, 15, walks alone to and from Ambridge High School each day. She started carrying pepper spray just in case.

“I know the area is not the best, so I wanted to have something in case anything happened to me,” she said.

After it was found by school officials, she was suspended for 10 days.

“I think it was way too much to happen to me for something that small. I’ve missed school. I missed volleyball. It’s terrible,” Mihalic said.

“It’s not the same policy. The words aren’t the same. They exclude the part about pepper spray,” said Mihalic’s mother, Jessica Prentice.

Prentice said the policy is unclear and her daughter is being wrongfully punished.

On the district’s website, the handbook defines any propellants, such as pepper spray and mace, as weapons. However, in the paper handbook given to parents and students at the start of the school year, it does not explicitly mention either item. It instead says that a chemical agent or other agent used as a toxin is considered a weapon.

“I looked at the CDC website for chemical agents, for toxins, and it’s not on either one of them,” Prentice said.

Her daughter’s spray lists red pepper as the active ingredient.

They took their frustrations to the Ambridge school board on Wednesday night. They argued their case in front of the school board along with an attorney. That meeting stretched well into the late hours Wednesday night.

Prentice said that the school board decided to take no further action aside from the 10-day suspension, and there are plans to rewrite and reissue a new handbook to the school district.