CLEVELAND, Ohio - A group of Ohio high school students voluntarily got pepper-sprayed in the face - and called the painful experience a useful lesson.
More than a dozen Barberton High School students agreed to be sprayed last week with their parents' permission as part of a class exercise.
A video posted online shows a row of teens lined up against a building. All is quiet as someone methodically sprays each student in the face, and then moves on. One by one, the students begin to scream.
"It felt like sticking your face into a bonfire," said Joshua Horvath, 17, a student at the school about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Cleveland.
Students also have been shocked with a stun gun for the criminal science class. The competitive program draws applications from students who want to join the military or become a police officer, and is taught by a former police chief.
"It's an excellent program," said Melody Steinhour, 42, who recording video of the exercise and is a parent of one of the students. "The philosophy is, if you're going to carry pepper spray, or you're going to carry a Taser, and use it as a weapon, you need to know what it feels like before you inflict that pain on someone else."
One copy of the video of the students being sprayed has been viewed online more than 15 million times. While some commenters have been critical of the parents for allowing their children to be pepper-sprayed, students and parents call it a useful learning experience.
"It teaches us what we're going to be doing in the field," said Horvath, who wants to be a police officer. "It keeps kids out of trouble because once you learn at a younger age, you're like 'oh, yeah, I don't wanna do that again.'"
The pepper spray training is intended to help students earn industry credentials in public safety from the Ohio Department of Education, the school said in a statement. It's been part of the criminal science program for years, parents and students say, but only recently gained attention because of Steinhour's video.