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Needle, Pin Attacks Prompt Health Fears at 2 Schools

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Needle- and pin-wielding students have set off health worries at two schools thousands of miles apart.

About 100 students in schools in Idaho and Pennsylvania were pricked with a needle or straight pin in recent weeks. The students have received shots for tetanus and hepatitis B, as well as blood tests for hepatitis and the human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS.

The perpetrators are facing punishment, but the victims will not be rid of the incidents quickly: The hepatitis B immunization series takes weeks, and patients must be tested twice more, over several months, for H.I.V. infection.

In Greensburg, Pa., this month, a county juvenile-court judge found a 13-year-old boy guilty of 19 counts each of felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor charges of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, and possession of a weapon on school property after the boy poked classmates with a hypodermic needle on Jan. 19.

The 7th grader, whom authorities would not identify because he is a minor, is to be sentenced this week. He faces possible confinement until age 21.

The boy stabbed one student at a bus stop, another on a school bus, and 17 others in a hallway at the 1,400-student Mount Pleasant Junior-Senior High School in Mount Pleasant, a town southeast of Pittsburgh, according to Ronald Zona, a Pennsylvania state police trooper.

The boy took the needle and a syringe from a doctor's office the day before, the trooper said.

The needle pricks drew small amounts of blood in some cases, officials said. The needle was found to be free of blood or other contaminants, police said.

But because of the chance that the students could contract blood-borne illnesses, school officials coordinated treatment with local and state health authorities. The school is sharing the cost of the shots and tests with the state health department, Superintendent Edward Hoffman of the Mount Pleasant schools said.

Straight-Pin Attack

Near Boise, Idaho, this month, at least eight students at the 767-student Mountain Home Junior High School jabbed more than 80 classmates with straight pins.

Principal William Trueba suspended the students--7th graders and one 8th grader--for two days. They could still face criminal charges, he said.

Mr. Trueba said he was appalled by the attacks, especially because the students are taught about how AIDS is transmitted.

School officials in Idaho and Pennsylvania said incidents that years ago might have been treated only as discipline problems are a matter of public health today.

"At this point in time, the feelings are that with the issue of AIDS out there, [a needle] potentially can be as dangerous to the individual as a gunshot or a knife," Mr. Hoffman said.

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