BENICIA - Parents and school district officials on Monday said they're bewildered by the arrest of a popular Benicia first-grade teacher who allegedly served pot-laced food to friends and colleagues at a dinner party.
Matthew Turner Elementary School teacher Teresa Badger, 47, was arrested Friday at her home in Benicia. The Solano County District Attorney's Office has charged her with three counts of "poisoning," according to the felony complaint.
Badger - a veteran teacher who's worked for 18 years in the Benicia Unified School District - was placed on administrative leave last week.
On Monday morning, Superintendent Janice Adams said she met with parents of Badger's students at the district office to explain the situation and answer any questions that she could.
Later in the day, Adams said there was little she could reveal about the case or the district's forthcoming investigation of the matter.
"We're trying to make sure that things get back to normal ... that the kids are impacted as little as possible," Adams said. "It's been very hard on the staff and on the school community."
Adams said that Badger is a "well-respected" and "popular" teacher, adding that she's baffled by the case.
School parent Stacy Lee Gardner, whose daughter had Badger as a kindergarten teacher, said the allegations don't jive with the woman she knows.
"She was the most lovely, wonderful, fabulous kindergarten teacher a parent could want for their child," said Gardner, adding that other parents she's talked to have expressed similar feelings. "She was just so good with the children. I'm heartbroken she is going through this ... that this is happening right now.
"I hope that things turn out for the best for her," Gardner added. "I think there's got to be more to the story than we realize. I can't imagine she would do anything that would hurt anybody, or intentionally mislead anyone into taking something they weren't aware of."
The month-and-a-half-long investigation revealed that several school employees attended an after-hours pot luck dinner on Nov. 21 at the Benicia home of one of the teachers, according to Lt. Frank Hartig of the Benicia Police Department.
Later in the evening, several guests reported feeling sick or possibly high. Two women - both teachers at the school, according to the district - were later taken to the hospital. Blood work for one of them revealed a presence of tetrahydrocannabinol - "THC" - the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
A child also became sick after ingesting some of the pot-laced food that was taken home from the party, police said.
Hartig said there was no indication that the victims knew they were eating cannabis-laced food. He added there appears to have been "eight to ten" victims, but the investigation is ongoing.
Police have not revealed what kind of pot-laced food was served.
Badger, who posted bail Saturday, could not be reached at her home Monday afternoon. Her arraignment has not yet been scheduled.
Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at email@example.com or (707) 553-6831. Follow him on Twitter @tonyburchyns.
©2014 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)
Visit Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.) at www.timesheraldonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services