Two 12-year-old girls contaminate their teacher's coffee cup
As assaults go, strawberry lip gloss is not an obvious weapon of choice. Unless, perhaps, the suspects are sixth-grade girls. Two 12-year-olds from Bainbridge...
Seattle Times staff reporter
As assaults go, strawberry lip gloss is not an obvious weapon of choice. Unless, perhaps, the suspects are sixth-grade girls.
Two 12-year-olds from Bainbridge Island are facing possible assault charges for slathering strawberry-scented lip balm on a water bottle and coffee cup Thursday to prompt an allergic reaction in their teacher, who has a severe allergy to strawberries.
The motive? A progress report was due, and one of the girls did not have a parent's signature.
"They thought if they could make the teacher sick, then the progress report would not be an issue," said Mark Duncan, deputy chief of the Bainbridge police. "This is 12-year-old thinking."
The girls, students of Sakai Intermediate School, told police they considered using real strawberries, but did not want to kill their teacher, just distract her from the missing progress report.
So they resorted to lip gloss.
After sipping from the tainted coffee mug, the teacher, Kasey Jeffers, 58, had a mild reaction — watery eyes and shortness of breath — in front of her class, said Pam Keyes, a Bainbridge schools spokeswoman. Jeffers took medicine and went home early, according to police.
A fellow student turned in the girls, and they were given emergency expulsions. Their parents, who were summoned to the school, were appalled when the girls explained their plan to police, Duncan said.
The girls, he said, were "very remorseful."
The Seattle Times generally does not name juvenile suspects.
The pair spent Thursday night and most of Friday in the Kitsap County juvenile-detention center. They appeared in Kitsap County Juvenile Court on Friday on suspicion of second-degree assault, a Class B juvenile felony with a maximum sentence of 36 weeks in state juvenile custody.
The girls, who do not have records, were held on $500 bail, based on being a "potential danger to the community," said Todd Dowell, a Kitsap County juvenile prosecutor.
Dowell said his office was weighing what charges to file Monday. But the case was well beyond a prank, he said, based on the girls' intent to sicken their teacher.
"The case certainly has its own unique circumstances," Dowell said.
The teacher's allergies are well-known at the school, and so severe that strawberries — once an agricultural staple of the island — are banned from the teachers' lounge, Duncan said.
Fewer people are allergic to strawberries than nuts, but such an allergy can cause wheezing, swelling of the tongue and possibly death, said Dr. Arvinder Mokha, an allergist at Seattle's Polyclinic.
But for a lip balm to trigger anaphylactic reaction, it would have to contain real strawberries, he said. If the balm was purely synthetic, the teacher's reaction could have been a panic attack, he said.
Jeffers returned to work Friday, and declined to speak to news media. The district, which is on spring break next week, will review the case with the girls, their parents and police before deciding whether to lift the expulsions, Keyes said.
For her part, Jeffers would welcome the students back to her class, Keyes said.
"Nobody wants to hang two 12-year-olds for bad behavior, but it's also a serious incident," Duncan said. "I don't think they knew the significance of their actions."
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.