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Santa Monica College to reimburse medical bills of students injured by pepper spray

Screenshot of Santa Monica College student pepper sprayed outside of a Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.
Screenshot of Santa Monica College student pepper sprayed outside of a Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, April 3, 2012.

Santa Monica College President Chui L. Tsang said Santa Monia College has launched a "full investigation" into the campus police's pepper spraying of about 100 students protesting a Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, and that students who were injured will be reimbursed for medical bills by the college.

"Santa Monica College regrets that a group of people chose to disrupt a public meeting in an unlawful manner," Tsang said in a statement today. "The college has launched a full investigation into the matter."

According to Tsang, about 100 demonstrators interrupted the meeting at about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday night when they overran the door and personnel stationed at the door. Campus police then discharged pepper spray that affected students, college staff and other police personnel, Tsang said.

Roughly 30 students were treated at the scene and three transported to a hospital for minor injuries, fire officials said.

Tsang said no arrests were made though "a number of participants at the meeting engaged in unlawful conduct" including setting off fire alarms.

Students were informed Tuesday night that they can submit medical bills to the Student Affairs Office, Tsang said.

The students were protesting a two-tier plan for courses that will make more classes available in certain subjects at a higher cost. Tsang said the college is trying to offer classes to students who have had trouble getting into classes because of drastic cuts to state funding.

The college's governing board approved the plan in March and it is set to start with an initial 50 such self-funded classes this summer.

From the statement:

"SMC has kept its courses open to as many students as possible by allowing more students into classes than are funded by the State. Yet, SMC is still turning away hundreds, if not thousands, of students because budget cuts have forced the college to trim class offerings by 1,100 course sections since 2008. Statewide, it is estimated that community colleges have turned away 300,000 students because of budget cuts.

The Board’s adopted guiding principles for the program affirm that courses offered above and beyond the level of course offerings funded by the State will supplement, not supplant the regular course offerings, and that revenue from these programs will be used to increase access to the college’s regular educational programs and services."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).