Student overdoses prompt discussion of administrative change

In-school overdoses result in six student hospitalizations

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Student overdoses prompt discussion of administrative change

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Six students exhibiting symptoms of drug overdoses were hospitalized April 13 after recreationally taking pills they thought were Xanax. Principal Kimberly Martin was notified of the symptoms presented by the first student before lunch, and students continued to be sent to the nurse’s office as the day progressed. One student shared their story with The Beacon.

The student recalled buying a pill in the bathroom during second period. “I took it there, and then around fourth period, something happened. I don’t remember what, I don’t really remember anything after that point. What people told me is that I fell asleep or something, and then they brought me to the nurse’s office,” he said.

The administration followed DCPS protocol in responding to the incident and called Emergency Medical Services (EMS) after a standard examination by the nurse hinted at a drug overdose. “If a student looks like they have something more than regular student illness, I call 911. It’s pretty simple,” said Martin. “I know where my training begins and ends, and I know what I can be responsible and not responsible for, so at that point I just call the authorities.”

Shortly after the first student to present symptoms was brought to the hospital in an ambulance, more students began to present symptoms. After the second 911 call of the day, EMS stationed an ambulance outside of the school to expedite care for any additional students.

Even after spending the night in the hospital, the student still does not know what he ingested. “They didn’t tell me at the hospital. All they told was how high I was when I came in, I would’ve had to take handfuls of Xanax. So it definitely wasn’t Xanax.” He further explained that he had not intended to take any pills when he arrived at school that day. “It just happened. [The dealer] was just there, and he had [pills],” he said. As far as the student knows, all of the six students purchased the pills from the same dealer, who was also a student.

The student said he takes Xanax or Percocet about twice a month. “It’s kind of an escape from all that sh**. School and everything,” he said. He is prescribed Adderall for his ADHD, and he smokes marijuana almost every day. “I think I’m done with the pills for now. I’ll still be smoking and stuff, because that’s just what I normally do,” he said. “Looking back on it, it’s just not a good decision at all. It could’ve been way worse than that.”

The student served a four day suspension. Disciplinary action was determined for each affected student based on possession, distribution and use, as well as their disciplinary history.

In addition to the suspension, the student has started an outpatient rehab program that meets three times a week in the afternoons. This was his parents’ decision, not the school’s. In general, the student finds it helpful. “You learn a lot of stuff you can do other than just going out and doing drugs. Like, stuff you used to like to do when you weren’t doing drugs, like playing sports or going to hang out with sober friends, playing basketball, go on a bike ride, walk your dog, anything,” he said.

“It literally is just peer pressure,” the student said of drug culture at Wilson. “Everybody at Wilson smokes. If you’re not doing it, one of your friends is. And then you start doing it because your friend is. People just walk the halls around Wilson to sell gas in the school.”

After notifying her instructional supervisor of the situation, Martin received an email drafted by the operations department that she was to send to parents and students, which is protocol in this situation. “They sent me the letter, I put my name on it, and I forwarded it,” she said. The only information disclosed in the email about the incident was, “This afternoon, several of our students became ill at school. Following proper protocols, we immediately contacted Emergency Medical Services, and the students were referred to the appropriate medical officials.”

Martin received backlash for her response to the incident, particularly from parents who were concerned by her lack of transparency. She emphasized that she divulged what she was at liberty to share. “I can’t talk about private student medical information,” she said.

In her weekly newsletter later that week, she addressed the incident again and encouraged parents to be weary of their children’s potentially “reckless and irresponsible behavior,” at parties, on prom night, and during beach week. She urged parents to keep their prescribed medications in locked cabinets and to ensure that any medications prescribed to their children are not shared with others, and she introduced a ban on baked goods for April 20, a day considered a holiday in cannabis culture. “My initial idea was that this was a terrible situation, that means next Friday [4/20] will also probably be a terrible situation. Let me try to do everything I can to prevent next Friday from being awful, since we already had a really awful day,” she said.

Martin noted that in the past, Wilson’s approach to drug use has been more reactive than preventative. “A student has an issue and we’re like get the social workers, get the counselors, and then we respond in a reactive way, but we don’t really have prevention programs.” Next year, she hopes to change this. She recently contacted a group called Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), a global non profit that trains former addicts to speak to students about drug use in the hopes of preventing abuse especially from an early age.