Thursday, February 08, 2001

Drugs send six students to hospital


'It happens,' principal says

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON TWP. — Six Little Miami High School freshmen were hospitalized Wednesday after at least two took prescription sleeping pills.

        A 15-year-old freshman was taken to the Warren County Juvenile Detention Center, charged with felony trafficking in drugs.

        Students who took the drug face misdemeanor charges of possession.

        None of them is being named because they are juveniles.

        The incident came a year after an undercover sting at the school put three students in jail for selling small quantities of marijuana, the stimulant ecstasy and a prescription painkiller to a county drug agent.

        Wednesday, as students were being hoisted into ambulances outside the school, Principal Robert Bixler sat in an office trying to dispel any notion his school had a drug problem.

        “It's alarming to our community and our school, but it happens,” Mr. Bixler said. “This is typical of a bad decision a teen-ager makes. For $10 or $11, look what you jeopardize.”

        John Burke, head of the Warren County Drug Task Force, said Little Miami doesn't have a reputation for drugs, despite the negative publicity it has received lately.

        “It's not any more than anyone else. Let's face it, this could happen in any school, and it does. It happened and fortunately nobody died,” said Mr. Burke, who orchestrated the undercover investigation at the high school in February 2000.

        In a survey conducted last spring of 47,000 Tristate students in grades 7-12, the Coalition for a Drug-Free Cincinnati found 16 percent used marijuana, 30 percent used alcohol and 22 percent used tobacco more than once a month. Less than 5 percent used prescription drugs, and less than 1 percent of all the alcohol and drug use happens in a school building, the survey showed.

        Little Miami officials caught wind they might have a problem Wednesday at 10:50 a.m. when a male student began acting “peculiar” in class, Mr. Bixler said. Police said the boy was extremely groggy.

        The boy's teacher took him to the nurse for evaluation and the boy said he had bought the drug Ambien from the freshman, who police determined received the prescription from his doctor.

        The boy admitted taking five pills, Mr. Bixler said. The boy also told school officials several others had bought or expressed interested in buying pills for $1 apiece.

        School officials sent the six students to Jewish Hospital — half of them as a precaution, Mr. Bixler said.

        He said three students were suspected of buying Ambien, including the boy who consumed the five pills. A female student said she bought one pill and ingested it, Mr. Bixler said.

        One boy possessed four pills, but told police he had taken them away from another student to prevent the classmate from taking them, township Police Chief Gene Duvelius said.

        He said students were given the impression the drug was a generic form of the prescription painkiller Vicodin, a popular drug among abusers.

        “That concept apparently was presented to the kids under the pretense that it would give them a quick high,” Chief Duvelius said.

        Five of the students were discharged from the hospital early Wednesday afternoon and the other also was expected to be released, hospital spokeswoman Dona Buckler said.

        The student who ingested five pills was conscious and receiving intravenous fluids by late afternoon, Chief Duvelius said. All six were given drug screenings, Ms. Buckler said.

        Parents, quiet and looking concerned, were quickly met inside the hospital's emergency room and hustled away by employees. Jewish Hospital officials said none of the parents wanted to talk about the situation.

        Many of them also refused to talk to police and won't allow their children to be questioned further, Chief Duvelius said.

        “Some of the parents are in the denial phase right now. Others want to talk to their kids about it,” he said.

        “That's why we are idling on further charges. There will be charges. It's just that we don't know how many and who they go to.”

       Enquirer reporters David Eck and Cindy Kranz contributed to this story.

       



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