Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Rachel Carson Middle School is in Reston. The school is in Herndon.
Clarification to This Article

Pins Are Discovered In School Food but Don't Reach Students

By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Three straight pins were found in cafeteria food at Rachel Carson Middle School over the past two weeks, prompting a police investigation, Fairfax County school and police officials said yesterday.

A cafeteria worker noticed the first pin April 24 in a serving of applesauce. A teacher discovered another pin two days later in a cup of yogurt. On Friday, a cafeteria worker found a pin in a cup of cranberry sauce.

No one swallowed a pin and no one was hurt, police said, but officials at the Herndon school have tightened security in the lunch line. School administrators sent an e-mail notice to parents Sunday and talked to students yesterday about the tampering.

"This shouldn't be considered a prank. This is very serious behavior," said Lt. Richard Perez, a police spokesman. "There could be a serious problem if one of the pins is ingested."

Perez said investigators have no suspects. It appears that the tampering occurred in the school, he said, because the pins in the applesauce and cranberry sauce were found atop single-size servings dished from large containers.

Schools spokesman Paul Regnier said none of the contaminated sauces reached students, because cafeteria workers noticed the pins before the sauces were served. "As the kids were going through the cafeteria line, the cafeteria workers saw the pins laying down right on top of the sauce," he said.

In the case of the yogurt, the pin had been pushed through the foil top, police and school officials said.

In Sunday's e-mail to parents, Principal August Frattali said the school has taken steps to ensure that the food is safe and asked students who knew anything about the incident to step forward.

Frattali said in the e-mail that officials think someone may have taken the pins from a classroom and dropped them into the single-serving cups of food.

"I would ask you to please talk with your child about the seriousness of being involved in this situation," Frattali wrote. "Any action that places our students in harm's way will have serious consequences."

Perez said more adults are monitoring the lunch line to make sure the food is safe. He said additional security measures have been taken but would not elaborate. The police officer who is assigned to the school is assisting the investigation, he said.

A police news release on the matter noted that food adulteration is a felony.

Lisa Browning, the school's PTA president, said she thinks it is likely that a student put the pins in the food without realizing someone could be hurt.

"Kids can do stupid things," Browning said. "I really feel like it was a childish prank where the child did not realize the seriousness of it. I don't think they realized it was a felony."

Browning has a son at the school and said she talked to him about the incident. "This is very serious," she said she told him. "If you see anything or know anything, you have to tell an adult."

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