Usually, parents worry about their children in terms of safety — whether they get to school and back unharmed, warning them of strangers and even giving them advice for when they go out with friends.
And though being concerned about their safety goes without saying, another troubling factor comes into play when a parent must also worry about their child being a bully, as the parents of three Pennsylvania teens are quickly finding out.
Three teenage girls, whose ages range from 13 to 14 years old, are now facing felony criminal charges after authorities said they purposefully exposed a fellow classmate to pineapple during their lunch break. The victim was severely allergic to the fruit and could have gone into anaphylactic shock.
In fact, the pineapple allergy is so severe that Butler Intermediate High School doesn’t even serve it in their cafeteria, with reports stating that one of the girls had brought a fruit cup full of the citrus fruit.
Though authorities are looking into the malicious incident, they say the leader of the prank asked for the pineapple and rubbed it on her hand. She then gave the 14-year-old victim a high-five.
Police are deeming the incident an aggravated assault, as the result could have left the girl dead.
“My understanding is she could go into anaphylactic shock and, if not properly and quickly treated, could die,” said Lt. Matthew Pearson of the Butler Township Police Department.
The severely allergic teen was immediately taken by ambulance for treatment and is reported to be in good health, yet many experts warn that food allergy bullying is more common than many are led to believe.
“It’s definitely something schools need to be talking about,” said Allergist-Immunologist Dr. Allison Freeman. “It’s no joke and putting a little bit of peanut butter on the keyboard to hurt somebody is a potentially deadly thing.”
Yet, though numerous parents — including the victim’s mother — have raised concerns as to how far the girls went, some have chalked it up to only a simple prank. The latter being the father of one of the accused, who doesn’t believe the act should be likened to criminal activity.
“The pineapple was not illegally brought in. It’s not a weapon,” said Attorney Mike Santicola. “It’s a fruit cup. And can you intentionally and knowingly kill somebody with a fruit cup?”
“I don’t think adults could make that decision let alone 14-year-olds,” he continued, adding that he, like the father, likens the event to a prank.
The school district released a statement following the school-grounds incident but refrained from giving out certain details.
“It is our expectation that our students respect themselves and others. When that does not occur, the district will take appropriate disciplinary action and, if appropriate, contact law enforcement,” the statement said.
The 14-year-old who led the bullying is being charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, and recklessly endangering another person. The other two face similar charges for assisting her.
Whether or not the girls may see some leniency in the justice system as the case goes on is still in question, as they undoubtedly will be learning their lesson from the incident.
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