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OR Press: Dead salamander in Peaches

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Tue May 13 07:36:39 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

EAST OREGONIAN (Hermiston, Oregon) 08 May 08 Would you like a dead salamander with your peaches? Middle school student prank places Sunridge on full alert (Kathy Aney)
Though it had as much comic timing as a Seinfeld episode, a prank by a Sunridge Middle School student left Principal Jon Peterson just a little bit grumpy Monday morning and salamanders have likely slipped several dozen notches on his list of favorite creatures.
It seems a salamander showed up in a large serving bowl of diced peaches during breakfast at the school. At the meal's conclusion, a kitchen worker collected the bowl only to find the amphibious creature floating dead in the juice.
"You have to assume the worst," Peterson said. "Our food service company, Sodexho, has food service standards it has to follow."
Sodexho contacted the state's health department for direction. All cans of peaches, pears and mixed fruit were pulled from use.
"They were preparing to ship the peaches, salamander and can to Pennsylvania for testing," Peterson said.
Sodexho wanted to rule out any possible contamination by the salamander. Of the 19 species of salmanders that live in Oregon, some repel predators by toxic skin secretions. The fluid irritates the lining of the mouth or eyes and can kill some predators, but usually aren't toxic to humans.
At least it wasn't a newt, which can be 10,000 times more toxic than a slug of cyanide.
Before the package left the building, the real story came to light after Peterson and other school officials started talking quietly with kids. Apparently, a boy had found a dead, partially-dried salamander stuck to his shorts before school started on Monday. He and two friends started booting it around like a hacky sack.
"A student remembered seeing kids kicking around what they thought was a rubber lizard," Peterson said. "That was an "ah ha" moment."
After talking with a number of students, school officials were able to reconstruct the incident.
"One of the boys thought it would be funny to put it into the peaches," he said.
His timing was impeccable as the bell rang and he and his friends headed off to class.
"Almost immediately, one of the kitchen workers went out to get the peaches," Peterson said. "She missed him by only a few seconds."
Superintendent Jim Keene said the issue was handled well by the district, following procedures in place for health precautions.
"The Pendleton School District takes the health, wellness and safety of its students very seriously," he said, "so matters like this - even a prank - call for safety precautions."
Peterson, by Wednesday, was finding humor in the incident. He had to laugh when he stepped into his office and saw a large drawing of a salamander tacked to the wall.
The caption read, "Got peaches?"
Would you like a dead salamander with your peaches?


   

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