Vermillion teens could be charged in cookie prank By Randy Dockendorf
Yankton Media, Inc. VERMILLION — The Clay County sheriff is considering charges against two Vermillion High School students who provided poisoned cookies to their classmates as a prank. "It's an April Fool's joke gone bad," said Clay County State's Attorney Teddi Gertsma. On April 2, the Clay County Sheriff's Office school resource officer, Dallas Schnack, received a report that as many as seven Vermillion High School students became ill or affected by cookies prepared by classmates. The investigation revealed that two students made cookies and, as an April Fool's prank, added over-the-counter sleeping medications to the cookies. The students then shared the cookies with classmates. Some students who ate the cookies became sleepy and fell asleep during school, some became ill and vomited, while one required medical attention, said Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe. School and law enforcement authorities are confident they have accounted for all the tainted cookies, and they know who ate them, the sheriff said. There is no indication that the incident involved any more than the 12 cookies prepared and consumed by the seven students. Some of the victims and one of the suspects are juveniles, Howe said. Charges are being considered against the two students who prepared the cookies. There is no indication that the two students who prepared the cookies meant any harm to anyone and have expressed remorse for their actions, Howe said. Law enforcement officers are interviewing the victims as part of their investigation, Gertsma said. The interview process has not been completed, she said. Gertsma said she is waiting for the final report for the sheriff, then she will review the facts in making a determination of how to proceed. "We are aware of the situation and are looking into it," she said. "The officers are finishing up their investigation, and the sheriff is considering the filing of charges." Possible charges are intentional poisoning, simple assault and disturbance of school. State law lists intentional poisoning as a Class 4 felony. Simple assault and disturbance of school are misdemeanors, Gertsma said. Disturbance of school is defined as a situation where "a person, whether pupil or not, who intentionally disturbs a public or non-public school when in session or who intentionally interferes with or interrupts the proper order or management of a public or non-public school by acts of violence, boisterous conduct or threatening language, so as to prevent the teacher or any pupil from performing his duty" (SDCL 13-32-6). The Vermillion school administration may also consider penalties within the school interdisciplinary system, Howe said. "This is clearly a situation where kids didn't think of the consequences of their actions," he said. "Some of these students drove home after school, unaware they were under the influence of the medication."