Valentine's Day candy
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Several students at Atlanta’s Sandtown Middle School were sent to the hospital on Thursday after complaining that they felt ill

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February 15, 2019 03:04 PM

More than two dozen students at a middle school in Georgia were hospitalized on Valentine’s Day after eating candy that left them feeling ill.

The students, who attend Sandtown Middle School in Atlanta, complained that they were feeling sick after eating candy and snacks at school on Thursday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

School officials first told local ABC station WSB-TV that 21 students had reported feeling sick, but that number grew to 28 by late Thursday afternoon.

After being evaluated by paramedics, Fulton County School District spokeswoman Susan Romanick told the AJC that the students were all taken to a local hospital, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta campuses at Hughes Spalding and Egleston.

Of the 28 students hospitalized, 25 were released to their parents or guardians on Friday, Romanick told PEOPLE.

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Several students said that they felt “nauseated and disoriented,” Cliff Jones, the district’s chief academic officer, said in a statement to the AJC.

“When students began reporting their symptoms, we partnered with local municipalities to immediately get them medical attention as quickly as possible. For the safety of all, students and staff were instructed not to eat anything given to them by another person and not to eat anything they didn’t bring from their own home,” he said.

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It is not clear whether Valentine’s Day candy specifically was the cause of the illness. Romanick told PEOPLE on Friday afternoon, “at this time, we cannot confirm that food or candy was the source of the students’ illnesses, but it is being investigated.”

She added that the district’s police department would likely be partnering up with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to conduct an analysis of food samples obtained by school police investigators.

“Until the investigation is complete, the school system cannot make a determination of what caused students’ illnesses, its origin, if there was a deliberate, wrongful act committed, or if criminal charges or student discipline will be levied,” Romanick said.

“Fulton County Schools also thanks the greater community for their concern. We want answers as much as you do, and will cooperate fully with all agencies to determine what happened.”

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