NEW FINDINGS: No criminal charges in drug-laced Valentine’s snack case

No criminal charges will be filed after drug-laced Rice Krispies cereal treats sickened Fulton County middle schoolers, prompting 28 students to go to local hospitals on Valentine's Day.

Fulton County Schools announced Wednesday that its police department will not pursue criminal charges related to the Sandtown Middle School incident, which the district described as “unprecedented” and “unique in magnitude and in complexity.” The case drew national attention because of the scope of the Valentine’s Day trouble.

GBI lab tests found THC, a chemical found in marijuana, in the snacks shared by some students on Feb. 14.

As the situation unfolded, school staff instructed any child who felt sick to report to the school clinic. Though 28 students were taken to local hospitals, the police report said only six actually ate the tainted treats from the container they were found in. Most students were quickly released from hospitals, but four were held overnight for observation.

School officials found a container with pieces of red-and-beige colored cereal treats in a locker after a student told an assistant principal to look there. Particles from those treats tested positive for THC, according to a police report the district released Wednesday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had requested a copy of the report through the state’s open-records law.

But officials determined there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

The police report, which redacts names and other specifics to protect students’ privacy, leaves many questions unanswered. The report indicates investigators received differing statements about some details.

Shannon Flounnory, executive director of the school district’s safety and security division, said investigators are “relatively certain” students brought the treats into the school but could not prove it.

He said parents or attorneys didn’t allow investigators to speak to a couple of the students who police wanted to interview.

Fulton school police met with Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Shannon Trotty to review the case on March 13.

Police told her that students who ate the treat said “there was no conversation” about it being tainted. Police could not determine where students got the treats or if they knew what was in it.

“Ms. Trotty advised that without the students having knowledge and intent, a charge could not be substantiated. She further stated that even a charge of reckless conduct could not be substantiated,” the report stated.

The district announced last month that five students faced school disciplinary consequences for what it described Wednesday as "varying levels of involvement in the incident." The district said previously that discipline could include suspension or expulsion.

There’s a different threshold for school discipline versus criminal charges, according to district spokeswoman Samantha Maxey.

“The standard for a criminal conviction is established beyond a reasonable doubt. While the standard for a disciplinary sanction requires a preponderance of the evidence,” she said, in an email.