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ST. LOUIS • More than a dozen students from Confluence Preparatory Academy charter high school were treated this afternoon after security guards at the school used pepper spray to break up a fight.

The melee occurred in a hallway as students were changing classes, said Michael Serpe, spokesman for Edison Learning, the management company that operates the charter school at 310 N. 15th Street in downtown St. Louis.

"We're investigating everything that caused it," he said.

Belinda Newman, a grandmother of one of the treated students, said about 10 to 12 boys had begun fighting when security guards tried to break up the crowd. Her 17-year-old granddaughter was not involved, she said, but inhaled the mace. The girl had trouble breathing as a result, Newman said.

The children transported transport have varying degrees of chemical exposure to pepper spray, said Bob Davidson, spokesman for Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. "We'll be doing some eye irrigation. Everyone will be going home."

Four other children were transported to St. Louis Children's Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Newman said she plans to talk with her daughter about pulling her granddaughter from the school. She's concerned that the fights could escalate and compromise students' safety.

"I'm afraid it's going to get worse," Newman said. "My granddaughter said when they were loading them up to go to the hospital someone said, 'It's not over with.'"

Newman is upset with the way the guards handled the situation.

"They endangered a lot of other kids," she said.

It's the second time this year that security guards at an area high school have used mace to break up a fight. In October, an off-duty police officer working at Riverview Gardens High School sprayed pepper spray into a crowd of students when some of them became unruly.

It's not unusual for security guards at high schools to carry pepper spray. Security guards at St. Louis Public Schools may carry it as long as they've gone through professional training about when and how to use it, district spokesman Patrick Wallace said. The district has 100 security guards who handle security at the district's 74 schools.

Confluence Preparatory Academy has no association with the St. Louis school system. It opened in the Fall of 2008.