Fresno Unified expels students in rat poison case

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno Unified says three students, ages ten and eleven, put rat poison in their teacher's coffee, as well as in the icing of a cupcake. Action News has learned all three students were expelled from Balderas and will be moved to other schools.

Teachers are not happy with the district's decision to move the students. The Phoenix Academy serves as a community day school for kids with disciplinary problems. They're concerned Fresno Unified is sending kids the wrong message -- and at the same time -- putting other students and staff at risk.

"I want a clear message sent to those students, I don't care if you don't have any prior disciplinary issues," said David Coss. "You executed a plan bodily injury on an adult, on a teacher and we're not going to tolerate that."

Coss is a teacher at the Phoenix Academy - a community day program for Fresno Unified that enrolls expelled students from 67 elementary schools in the district. He says he was notified Friday morning that two of the three students involved in a plot to poison a teacher at Balderas Elementary will now attend his school. He says staff members there feel so threatened - no one wants them in their class.

"They should not be placed at another campus where now other staff and other students have to worry about," said Coss. "Certainly like a campus like ours where these kids are going to be elevated to gods to many of our kids, they're going to say this is great 'maybe I can do something similar to a teacher or an adult.'"

The two students - both males -- are part of a three-person group accused of putting rat poison in their teacher's coffee cup in mid-December. A plot that was foiled when Fresno Teachers Assocation President Greg Gadams says one of the boys had second thoughts.

Gadams said, "The child thought this was probably not a good thing to do and knocked the cup of coffee out of the teachers hand when she was going to drink it."

Fresno Unified says immediate disciplinary action was taken against the students when the district became aware of the incident two weeks ago. But parents and teachers we talked with say more should be done -- and the district should have done a better job in notifying them.

Coss said, "I believe the police should press criminal charges against these students, they've openly admitted they've done it."

Rey Saldana said, "It's just an incident that needs to be taken care of an a real manner."

Action News asked the district to respond to the parents and teachers concerns. Spokesperson Susan Bedi said no one would comment.

Fresno police say they're conducting an extensive investigation into the incident. Once it's complete, they'll consult the Fresno County district attorney's office to determine whether charges will be filed against the ten and eleven year old children.

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