BUTLER, Pa. – Three teenagers face criminal charges after intentionally exposing a school classmate with a severe pineapple allergy to the fruit, authorities said.
Police in Butler Township allege that a 14-year-old high-fived the other 14-year-old girl to expose her to the fruit during lunch period Dec. 13 at Butler Intermediate High School. The victim was taken by ambulance to Butler Memorial Hospital where she was treated and released.
The suspect was charged in juvenile court with felony aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, and other offenses. Two other girls, ages 13 and 14, face charges including criminal conspiracy.
Chief John Hays said the girl's allergy was well-known and pineapple isn't served during that period but someone had brought it from home. While pineapple is not typically a weapon, police consulted with Butler County prosecutors, who recommended aggravated assault charges because the girls are alleged to have been aware of their classmate's allergy, he said.
"This was an intentional act," Lt. Matt Pearson said. "They sat at the lunch table right next to her and talked about doing it. Some had reservations, but they went through with it."
The Butler Area School District released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that "as with all student discipline issues" no comment would be provided on the specific incident.
"However, 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.
Dr. Allison Freeman, an allergist-immunologist with Allegheny Health Network, told KDKA that bullying using food allergies is becoming more common.
"It's definitely something schools need to be talking about," Freeman said. "It's no joke and putting a little bit of peanut butter on the keyboard to hurt somebody is a potentially deadly thing."