Pattonville student facing long suspension after fentanyl overdose

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MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – A troubling story with a controversial twist involving fentanyl is unfolding at Pattonville High School.

The family of an honors student says she wound up in the hospital after taking fentanyl she got at school and now she has received a lengthy suspension.

“It’s a lot of emotional distress,” said Judy Erickson, the mother of the 15-year-old girl. “It’s been hard. It’s just been hard.”

Erickson says her daughter overdosed on fentanyl that she got at school last month.

The teen admitted to accepting a bag of white powder on campus that her friend gave to her. She says he didn’t tell her what it was and she didn’t know either.

The teen says she snorted a small amount of the powder days later on the school bus while on her way home.

She says she didn’t feel anything but then did ingested more powder when she got to her house, saying she was curious.

“And then the next thing you know, I passed out or whatever happened. And I don’t remember after that; like, it was just black,” the teen said.

Erickson, who is a nurse, found her daughter unconscious face down on her bed.

“She almost didn’t have really a pulse, so I yelled to my younger one to call 911 and I started CPR on her,” she said.

Her daughter spent four days in the hospital.

“They were able to test her urine for any drugs and it showed it was fentanyl,” Erickson said. “It bothered me. It bothers me right now. It scares me because I do believe kids should be safe in school and so I do think that Pattonville should take some responsibility.”

Erickson’s daughter received a 10-day out of school suspension for having drugs at school. After a hearing, Erickson says she received a letter from the Pattonville superintendent, who extended the out of school suspension to 180 school days until October of next year.

Erickson says her daughter takes honors classes and hasn’t had any other major discipline problems.

“I believe it’s too harsh. The policy, it shouldn’t be one policy fits all. They should take some things into consideration,” she said.

Her daughter added: “180 (days). I mean, I don’t think so. I could see maybe, like, a half a year or something because this is, like, my first time with like drugs like that at all.”

Officials with the Pattonville School District declined our request for an on-camera interview. Instead, the district released the following statement:

The Pattonville School District strives each day to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all its students. In unfortunate cases involving student use, possession or distribution of drugs at school or school-sponsored activities, students receive a range of consequences based on the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Although federal privacy laws prevent discussing specific disciplinary cases, in general, consequences range from 10 to 180 days out of school suspension, all the way up to expulsion. In most cases, Pattonville provides alternative education for students who have received long-term suspensions, including coursework that can be completed in an alternative classroom or online at home.

In addition, when students are found to be in possession or under the influence of drugs, Pattonville also requires a drug assessment through NCADA, which makes a recommendation for additional free therapy based on the assessment results.

Drug use is a health crisis that affects every community, and Pattonville schools provide programs and resources that support students in making healthy choices regarding drugs, alcohol and other dangerous behaviors. We are fortunate to have partners such as NCADA and other community groups that provide drug prevention training beyond our health curriculum, as well as therapeutic support for students in need.

In addition, we work with Maryland Heights police to have unannounced visits by drug dogs to discourage drugs on campus.

The school district also shared its behavior guide with Fox 2.

“It’s a horrible thing that she did,” Erickson said.

But she thinks her daughter has learned her lesson and shouldn’t have to go to an alternative school for the next year.

“I just hope that she is able to go back to school,” Erickson said.

Erickson is appealing the suspension and has spoken with an attorney.

“I just hope at the end of the day I graduate on time,” Erickson’s daughter said.

Meanwhile, Erickson says it’s her understanding that the other student involved received a 180-day suspension as well.

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