School Evacuated & Students Sick Because of Habanero Peppers

You can breathe easily knowing this story does NOT involve a school, students, and guns or violence -- thank goodness -- but the details will still leave you scratching your head.

A Colorado K-12 school was evacuated when 30 students and a teacher's aide returned to the building after recess reporting eye and skin irritations that resembled allergic reactions. When investigators inspected the area outside of the school grounds, they didn't find pepper spray or a toxic fertilizer -- they discovered six habanero peppers thrown into a bunch of wood chips near the playground. The little suckers caused a whole lot of chaos, and nobody has a clue how or why they were there.


Some of the students who complained of reactions at Jefferson County Open School were treated at a nearby hospital. About two dozen others had to be sprayed down and decontaminated in order to remove the incredibly irritating pepper oil from their clothes and skin. Thankfully, all of the children are just fine now and able to return to class today.

The school, which has about 500 students, remained shut for one day while district teams thoroughly washed playground equipment and replaced the wood chips. It's unknown whether school reps and police plan to take things one step further and investigate how and why the peppers ended up in a location so close to a school building, or whether they're chalking this up to an unfortunate, but relatively harmless, case of a habanero pepper-lover thoughtlessly dumping his trash where it didn't belong.

Anyone who has ever held a habanero pepper in their hand for a few seconds knows it is one potent fruit that can quickly irritate skin and eyes. I guess it's possible someone purposely scattered the peppers near the playground in order to cause mischief, but gosh, that seems an awful lot like something a cartoon villain would do. Let's hope it really was just an innocent mistake -- and a good reminder not to litter, particularly if your garbage contains a spicy, practically toxic food.

Why do you think the habanero peppers were found so close to the school?


Image via Kazue Asano/Flickr

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