TUPELO – Tupelo Public School District security officers will carry pepper spray next year.

The district’s School Board voted on Tuesday to authorize the district’s 18 school security officers to carry the chemical agent while working. The officers are state-certified employees stationed at campuses throughout the district.

The idea is to give the officers another resource to use, particularly when there are large crowds at athletic events or if other major problems arise, said TPSD Executive Director of Operations Andy Cantrell.

“We are holding them accountable to maintain a safe and orderly environment, and we have to give them the resources to do that,” Cantrell said.

The district requested the Mississippi Department of Education’s Division of Safe and Orderly Schools to conduct a safety and facilities assessment in the spring in order to identify areas that could be improved. One recommendation was to allow the officers to use pepper spray, as needed.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is a top priority,” Cantrell said.

The officers will begin to carry the small canisters of pepper spray this fall. They all have attended a training that includes having them get sprayed by it. That allows them to fully understand the chemical’s effect so they will only use it when necessary, Cantrell said.

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The safety officers are different than the four school resource officers, who are provided by the Tupelo Police Department.