BUTLER (KDKA) – A felony, over food? Three teenage girls are facing felony criminal charges after an incident involving pineapple. Butler Township Police said during lunch time, the girls purposely exposed their classmate to pineapple, a fruit to which she is severely allergic.
Butler Intermediate High School does not serve pineapple in the cafeteria because of that student's allergy, according to police.
Police said one student charged brought a container of pineapple in her packed lunch. Police said the teen, who is the most culpable among the three, asked for the pineapple, rubbed it on her hand and deliberately high-fived the girl with the allergy.
Police are deeming alleged lunchroom incident on Dec. 15, 2017, an aggravated assault.
"My understanding is she could go into anaphylactic shock and, if not properly and quickly treated, could die," Lt. Matthew Pearson of the Butler Township Police Department.
According to officials, the allergic teen is 14 years old. The teen accused of purposely high-fiving her after rubbing pineapple on her hand is 14. The girls accused of conspiring with her are 14 and 13.
"The main defendant put some on her hand. They conjured up a game, a plan to expose her through high-fiving her," said Lt. Pearson.
The teen with the severe allergy was taken for treatment immediately and is OK, according to police.
It's difficult to say what would have happened if she weren't immediately treated.
"The interesting thing about food allergies is that every person's level of reactivity is a little different," said Dr. Allison Freeman, Allergist-Immunologist with Allegheny Health Network.
Dr. Freeman said food allergy bullying is becoming more common.
"It's definitely something schools need to be talking about. It's no joke and putting a little bit of peanut butter on the keyboard to hurt somebody is a potentially deadly thing," said Dr. Freeman.
Whether the conduct rises to the level of criminal activity is another story.
"The pineapple was not illegally brought in. It's not a weapon. It's not any of those things. 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," said Attorney Mike Santicola. Santicola is not connected to this case in any way. But he agreed to offer his legal expertise for the story. He said the case appears to be overcharged. "Fourteen year old girls. I liken this to a prank and a prank does not rise to the level of intentionally harming somebody where they can die," said Santicola.
"I can see years ago, when I was in school, the kids would say, oh we're going to do something to her chair that when you stood up maybe something was on your slacks. But not something that would harm you in the health ways -- you don't do that," said Becky Gitzen of Prospect Borough.
The Butler Area School District released the following statement:
"As with all student discipline issues, we are unable to provide a comment 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 14-year-old has been charged with aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Two other girls, ages 13 and 14, are facing similar charges for allegedly assisting in the assault.
for more features.