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Laxative prank goes horribly wrong

Teachers were thrilled when students at a Brooklyn high school sweetly offered them slices of homemade cake last week.

But the innocent-looking treat contained a nasty surprise - it was laced with laxatives that sent two educators to the hospital and sickened three other staffers.

Now, three seniors at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies in Cobble Hill have been suspended for the prank and barred from graduation - and were under arrest last night.

"It was just cruel and hurtful," one of the victims, Tom Mancuso, 36, told the Daily News Tuesday.

The students - Tiara Peoples, Kenny Ramirez and Quashon Burton, all 17 - were taken to the 76th Precinct stationhouse in Brooklyn. Assault charges were pending, sources said.

"What they did was wrong and they need to be punished," said a school social worker who was sickened by the cake.

"On the other hand, I was very close to these students and I'm very sad," she told The News, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's very hard when you give so much of your heart and soul to your kids and someone hurts you like that."

The students behind Thursday's stunt weren't seen as troublemakers - one was a straight-A cheerleader. So no one was suspicious when they doled out the chocolate-iced Bundt cake.

People who were offered the cake assumed the red chunks inside the yellow filling were candy, but school officials say they were actually Dulcolax tablets.

"One of the kids said it was baked by his mom. 'Go ahead, it's free,'" said Danilo Dungca, 54, who left a job at the Federal Reserve three years ago to teach in the public schools.

"I'm very close with the kids, so I didn't think anything of it."

As soon as he and Mancuso took a bite, they knew something was wrong.

"It tasted like someone sprayed hairspray in my mouth. I spit it out," Mancuso said. "That's when my lips and my tongue went numb."

"It had red chunks that looked like cherries, but they were bitter," Dungca added, "I spit it out....My mouth was numb. I got sick. I went to the bathroom."

Dungca went right to the emergency room. Mancuso left early, then headed to the hospital when he had breathing problems.

Doctors told him his symptoms were consistent with insecticide poisoning, and there was buzz among students the cake had been sprayed with Raid, he said.

The Health Department tested the cake and did not find any poisons, sources said.

Principal Lisa Gibbs had no comment. In an e-mail to her staff, she alluded to problems at the school and said she considered quitting two weeks ago but changed her mind.

"While I know that we are all deeply offended, angry, disappointed, and saddened by this turn of events, it's important to remember that not all students would be so devious and harmful," she said.

Some students at the school were blasé about the cake caper.

"Nobody's died from a laxative," said Shanell James, 17, a senior and friend of Ramirez. "He thought it was funny. I thought it was funny, too."

Others were dismayed.

Student body president Luis Daray called the prank "very foolish." Bob Zuckerberg, the district's teachers union rep, said it was "horrendous."

For Mancuso, the episode capped a difficult year in which he battled the Epstein-Barr virus.

"Ironically," he said, "this is the icing on the cake."


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