Shortly before 12:10 p.m. on Thursday, a group of seven boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 12 came into contact with the rat poison at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School at 350 Girard St.
Originally, it was thought that the students mistook the poison for candy. The school's investigation has since revealed that some of the students had encouraged their peers to try it, knowing that the substance was not candy, school district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.
"This is a serious offense, and we have met with the students and their parents. We are taking disciplinary action," Blythe said.
The school district said the investigation is ongoing, but the students responsible for persuading their peers have been suspended.
The rat poison was non-toxic, and the school district said the students are now in good health.
"Only two of them ingested it," fire department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said immediately following the incident. "The others kind of licked it."
The poison was determined to have been bought over the counter, not purchased by the school district, Blythe said.
The district is still investigating where the poison came from.
Blythe said that, according to district policy, only a professional pest control service provider, contracted by the school, is permitted to apply chemicals.
Under the district's Integrated Pest Management Approach, schools are banned from using most toxic pesticides, and must use non-toxic or the least toxic methods available.
Warning signs must also be posted and notification letters sent to parents two days before the use of pest control chemicals.
"Obviously, there is cause for alarm that there may be rat poison lying around school grounds," Blythe said. "We want parents and community members to know that that is not consistent with our pest-management procedures."
Talmadge said that the poison was essentially a blood thinner and that none of the children sustained serious medical complications from the contact.