Crisis team visits school where pupils are accused of trying to poison teacher

June 11, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

One day after three fifth-graders were arrested and charged with trying to poison a teacher with rubbing alcohol, ammonia and bleach in his soda, the 600 students of Rodgers Forge Elementary School received attention from a crisis intervention team.

Teachers, administrators and counselors huddled yesterday before school, planning an announcement for children once they arrived. They decided each teacher would tell his or her class about the incident, make the point that it wasn't funny, and that the teacher could have been badly hurt or killed.

Rowland L. Savage, supervisor of guidance services and project director for the school system's crisis intervention team, said students were told that Thursday "you probably saw something that upset you. We want to tell you some students made a very bad decision. What they thought was a joke wasn't funny, and was very dangerous."

"The students reacted beautifully," said Mr. Savage, who spoke for the school yesterday.

Principal Lawrence P. Snow and others, including Richard William Jones, 47, the teacher whose root beer was contaminated Wednesday afternoon during recess, declined to speak to the media.

The students charged with trying to poison Mr. Jones -- two 11 and one 10 -- were not in school yesterday, Mr. Savage said.

He said school officials have not decided what disciplinary action to take against the students.

"Typically, we wait for the police report" before taking action, he said.

Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman, said the students will face a hearing in juvenile court, but those hearings are confidential.

Teachers yesterday kept an eye out for students who seemed upset over the incident, Mr. Savage said.

He said about 20 students saw a counselor.

"Some students find it very hard to understand," he said.

Teachers also discussed with students how such an incident

could be avoided, and what they should do if they saw someone putting something in a teacher's drink.

Some students suggested the first action should be to pour the drink out, then tell a teacher, Mr. Savage said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jones had taken a sip of his drink, felt a burning sensation in his mouth and immediately spit the drink out.

Investigators said the combination of rubbing alcohol, ammonia and bleach could have been fatal if swallowed.

Mr. Jones taught his classes yesterday without incident, Mr. Savage said.

He said the teacher did not want to discuss the case because it's under investigation.

Parents who went to the Dumbarton Road school yesterday afternoon to pick up their children were aware of the situation.

"I know Mr. Jones," said Theodore Marks, 39, whose 10-year-old son attends the school.

"I can say that guy is a very dedicated professional. I'm sorry it happened to him," Mr. Marks said.

Mike Washabaugh, 35, was waiting for his 8-year-old son, a second-grader.

He said he talked the incident over with his son and 6-year-old daughter after it was on the news.

"The kids didn't think it was anything other than an isolated incident," Mr. Washabaugh said.

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