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Uniondale School Evacuated After Student Releases Pepper Spray

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Two dozen people were rushed from a Long Island elementary school to an area hospital Wednesday, all because of a can of pepper spray.

As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, police were trying to determine Wednesday afternoon how the pepper spray got inside a school hallway.

The incident happened around 11:20 a.m. at the Northern Parkway Elementary School in Uniondale.

Uniondale School Evacuated After Student Releases Pepper Spray

A 10-year-old boy released the pepper spray somewhere near the library, which is located in the basement of the school, officials said. Police were questioning the fifth grader Wednesday afternoon to determine if he released the pepper spray accidentally or deliberately.

"It smelled kind of like pepper spray or something, and I had a little headache," one youngster said.

"I was in the playground, and the polices came and the ambulances," said Mikey Castro, 8.

In all, 20 children and four adults were injured and taken to the hospital to be treated for eye and throat irritation. They were taken to Nassau County Medical Center in 11 ambulances, police said.

"Shortness of breath, nausea, just general discomfort" were among their symptoms, said Uniondale Fire Chief John Skelly.

The student who allegedly released the pepper spray was among those injured, officials said.

The district said the school was also evacuated as a precaution.

Worried parents ran to collect anxious kids. Parents of the students closest to the spray release rushed to the hospital.

Uniondale School Evacuated After Student Releases Pepper Spray

Within 40 minutes, hazardous materials teams tested the air quality and deemed it safe for classes to resume. But some parents weren't taking chances, and instead opted to call it a day and take their children home.

"Just precautions – don't want her to smell it," said parent Tammy Ricks. "She hasn't smelled anything yet, but I don't want anything to happen."

How did a 10-year-old get pepper spray, and did he bring it to school or find it there? Police said his parents are cooperating with the investigation, as they interview witnesses.

"Right now, we have to see how he got it' when he discharged it, did he directly discharge it at someone?" said Nassau County police Detective Michael Bitsko. "We don't know."

Police said complicating the matter, all the witnesses to the spraying are young children.

All 24 of the students and faculty members were treated and released from the hospital early Wednesday afternoon.

It is legal for adults to possess pepper spray in New York State. The pepper spray was in a container the size of a lipstick tube, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

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