Va. Teacher 'Shocked' After Alleged Poison Attempt

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email

The Virginia middle-school teacher who was the victim of an alleged attempted poisoning by two of her students said she was "shocked" to learn that the cause of her stomach pains was hand sanitizer that had been mixed into her drink.

Jane Miller, a Newport News woman who has been teaching for more than 40 years, learned that two of her math-review students -- both 13 -- had allegedly put the potentially dangerous hand sanitizer in her tea when another student came forward to school officials.

"I was shocked, and I couldn't quite process it fast enough to realize what it meant," Miller, 66, told ABC News.

A school officer contacted Newport News Police Department's Special Victims Unit, which conducted a thorough investigation before the two teens were charged March 6 with one count of attempted poisoning.

School officials say the two students confessed to putting hand sanitizer in Miller's drink at least twice and, after a committee recommended them for long term suspensions, they have been removed from Hines Middle School. The two are now attending a separate community school, according to Michelle Price of Newport News Public Schools.

Miller says she never even tasted the hand sanitizer in her cup of tea. "When you're walking and teaching, you're thirsty," she said. "I just gulp."

Back in January, when the teens allegedly added the hand sanitizer to her drink, Miller started to feel sick and didn't know why.

"She was experiencing some medical concerns, and was being treated by her doctor," Newport News police spokesman Lou Thurston said.

Miller said that she was experiencing a variety of symptoms.

"My stomach would bother me," she said. "I was running a low-grade temperature. I was just exhausted by the time I got home."

The veteran teacher says she isn't quite sure why her students would try and poison her.

"It's hard to get into an adolescent's mind," she said. "The class I teach was math review, and a lot of them aren't too keen on math and they don't really want to be there."

Police say the two teens, who have not been named, are facing charges for attempted poisoning, a class-3 felony that carries a minimum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

While many questions remain unanswered, Miller said that she hopes her story will be a lesson for everyone.

"I think we need to appreciate our teachers more, and to understand it is a very difficult job," she said, "and to help children understand that teachers are there to help them," she said.

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