BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Parents who attended the North High School meeting were expecting to get answers about five students who reportedly overdosed on fentanyl over the past week but parents said they came away with most of their questions unanswered.
More than 150 parents and students attended the North High meeting, demanding answers from administrators as to where the drugs at North High came from, what’s going to be done to stop the ongoing opioid overdoses and to get reassurance that it’s safe to send kids to school.
Parents were shown a presentation on drug use and were introduced to drug experts but parents wanted to know more. Specifically about the overdoses at North High and new measures the school would take to stop drugs coming onto campus.
“It was a waste of time no,” Jennifer Essex a mother of an opioid-poisoned North High student said. “They would not let us get a word in. All he did is play us a slide show that made us look like we were in elementary school.”
“It was a joke. Absolute joke. They just basically told everyone in there, that everybody’s kids are choosing to do drugs,” Sasha Owens the mother of two opioid-poisoned students said.
The school announced at the meeting all of its administrators, nurses and officers have been trained to identify fentanyl drug overdoses and how to use Narcan over the summer but some parents claim their children never saw that support when they overdosed while at school.
During the meeting, Essex demanded school officials explain why students were the ones to help her son and why EMTs had to give her son two bottles of Narcan even though the school said its officials had been trained for this exact situation.
“He said he had something in order for everybody to come but nobody came,” Essex said. “The students came to my son’s rescue. The students tried to get my son help. The students, the two little kids tried to carry my son, my lifeless son to the office because no one else wanted to do it.”
North High during the parent meeting announced its plan moving forward. Some parents said this was their main reason for attending the meeting but they also said they were more confused leaving after seeing the school’s plan to handle the drugs on campus.
The school announced a plan with little change to what it has already been doing. There will be more parent meetings but on a district-wide level. Schools will be grouped together and have fentanyl info sessions. There would be more student training and awareness of the dangers of opioids and the school would expand its Narcan availability.
This plan comes just after North High Principal Mark Balch confirmed fentanyl use at the school and at other schools in the Kern High School District.
“We’re trying to work with you to address the opioid problem in this community,” Balch said. “This includes the use of fentanyl which we’ve seen the effects of recently.”
Scott Odlin with KHSD said none of the recorded times Narcan was used were at North High. He explained KHSD doesn’t record the times EMTs use Narcan, even on school property, since they aren’t a part of the school.
“We track all of our Narcan deployments obviously we don’t use more than once so five this year so far,” Odlin said.
Some parents said more needs to be done.
“I feel like clear backpacks should be implemented,” Sherree Gilmour a mother of eight and family friend of an opioid-poisoned child said. “I feel like a dog should be on campus with the narks. I feel like if there is an overdose there should be an immediate bulletin put out. ‘Hey we had a situation. Talk to your kids. Educate them.”
Parents said OD notifications sent from the school should be just as easy as sending a COVID-19 exposure notice.
“I get 900 emails from the school. ‘Oh we’ve been exposed to COVID’ but when someone OD’s from North High you don’t get anything,” Gilmour said. “It should be just as serious because it’s killing our kids.”
North High parents said they will continue to demand the school to do more to protect their children and provide tighter security.