A school board in North Carolina, which voted to adopt a policy allowing pepper sprays in high schools, is now "rethinking" its decision after feedback from the community, a board member told BuzzFeed News Wednesday.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board voted Monday to amend its policy prohibiting high school students from carrying pepper sprays on campus, the Salisbury Post first reported.
However, Chuck Hughes, a board member who voted in favor of the policy, told BuzzFeed News he will personally vote against it in the next session on May 23, after he realized that the "cons far outweighed the pros." He also said that "many board members" he had talked to "will think this over again."
During Monday's session, Hughes was reported to come out in favor of allowing sprays citing HB2 concerns. According to the Salisbury Post, he said, "Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in."
Hughes backtracked Wednesday, telling BuzzFeed News that his comments were "inappropriate" and that they had nothing do with the LGBT community.
"I was not thinking about the LGBT issue," Hughes said. "Perverts and pedophiles taking advantage of this law in bathrooms was my major concern."
North Carolina and the Department of Justice have sued each other over House Bill 2 (HB2), which was passed into law in March and bans transgender people access to restrooms that match their gender identity in government buildings and schools.
The law has sparked protests and several companies and performers have refused to work in North Carolina.
Hughes said he thought of pepper sprays as a "defensive tool" when he voted to allow it on campuses but he realized it could also be misused by students.
"The LGBT issue has never been a problem to my knowledge," Hughes said. "People have a different sexual identity, they go about their business. You don't even know that a transgender is in your bathroom. They're not there to create havoc. But perverts are."
Hughes said he was not homophobic and that the LGBT community had rights to be protected. "They're not the ones to look out for," he said. "My statement was misinterpreted and when I hear other people talking about it, I can see how it was misinterpreted."
He said he could see teenage boys pretending that their gender identity was female to enter bathrooms "as a joke."
He said that after hearing the "negatives" from the community on allowing students to carry pepper sprays, the "cons outweighed the pros" and that he put "more faith in teens than perhaps I should have."
Hughes said the board had the opportunity to hear from the community and would take their feedback into consideration during their next session where they will vote on the policy after a second reading.
"We're a strong board and we're going to reevaluate this and maybe change it," Hughes said. "I personally will vote to put pepper spray back into the prohibited items list along with razor blades, guns, knives, and other items that are not okay to take on school campuses."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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