28 Students at an Atlanta school have been hospitalized after eating Valentine's candy
As many as 28 students were taken to hospital on Valentine's Day after consuming a sizeable amount of holiday candy, police have confirmed.
Cliff Jones, Academic Officer for Fulton County Schools Chief in Atlanta, Georgia, explained that 28 students at Sandtown Middle School started to feel "nauseated and disoriented" after eating snacks and candy, and were rushed to a nearby hospital.
"When students began reporting their symptoms, we partnered with local municipalities to immediately get them medical attention as quickly as possible. For the safety of all, students and staff were instructed not to eat anything given to them by another person and not to eat anything they didn’t bring from their own home," Jones explained.
Experiencing shortness of breath as well as other symptoms, South Fulton Fire Department Deputy Chief Jack Butler explained why it was important that services acted quickly. "They ate something that caused some kind of reaction. It wasn’t anything life-threatening. Once you get that many kids suffering the same thing, you have to figure out what's going on," Butler said.
Meanwhile, Sandtown Principal Estella Cook wrote a letter to parents explaining that it's as yet unclear as to what caused the middle school students to fall ill. "Please know that we want answers as much as you do, and will cooperate with all agencies to find out what happened," Cook wrote.
Meanwhile, Fulton County School District spokeswoman Susan Romanick confirmed that they were investigating the incident to find out what really happened.
"At this time, we cannot confirm that food or candy was the source of the students’ illnesses, but it is being investigated.
Until the investigation is complete, the school system cannot make a determination of what caused students’ illnesses, its origin, if there was a deliberate, wrongful act committed, or if criminal charges or student discipline will be levied.
Fulton County Schools also thanks the greater community for their concern. We want answers as much as you do, and will cooperate fully with all agencies to determine what happened."
Romanick added that the district's police department would likely be partnering up with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to analyse a host of food samples provided by school police investigators. They are trying to determine whether drugs were involved, as well as the source of the offending snacks and candy.
The children involved Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding and Egleston as well as Grady Memorial Hospital, though as yet there has been no update on their condition. "It was scary, because my first thought was that it could happen to me," added one child interviewed by WSBTV.
Sandtown was also the school of choice for City of South Fulton Councilwoman Catherine Rowell, who gave a statement when she was picking up her daughter. "Our first priority is to make sure they are safe, and that sounds like what's happening," Rowell explained. "Everyone has jumped in and responded appropriately."
Local news services initially reported that 21 students had been afflicted by the candy, but that number has since risen to 28.