MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — School resource officers report there have been at least 30 vaping-related offenses at Sequoyah High School in Monroe County since the start of the 2021-22 school year.

On Tuesday, two SROs and a school nurse were sent to the hospital after being exposed to fentanyl during school hours.

Jason Fillyaw, a detective with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said the SROs were told about a student with a vape pen on campus. They found the student who reportedly had the pen and took the student back to their office.

When disassembling the pen to test what was inside, a white piece of paper fell out. That paper had white powder on it, and Fillyaw said those SROs did not expect the substance to be fentanyl.

“They thought that they were dealing with a vape pen or you know, something that had THC oil in it,” he said. “Never would they have thought that there had been fentanyl involved in this situation.”

He said the majority of drug-related issues at Sequoyah High revolve around vape pens.

Tuesday was the fifth time an ambulance had been called to the school for a drug-related incident since the school year began, according to Fillyaw.

“We’ve had kids go and use vape pens that were containing THC, or cannabis, and have adverse reactions from that where they’re having difficulty breathing, or having hallucinations, or elevated heart rates,” he said. “Things like that where they were taken to the hospital or released a short time later.”

He said none of those incidents involved an overdose.

However, the incident with the fentanyl on Tuesday could have been a lot worse, Fillyaw said. He said fentanyl is highly potent. Just two grains of the drug, similar to the size of two grains of salt, can kill someone.

“Just like yesterday, our two deputies just touching it, absorbing it through their skin, caused them to go into a you know, a potential overdose situation and Narcan was administered,” Fillyaw said.

Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose.

Fillyaw said this was the first time they had seen fentanyl in the schools, but the use of vape pens with cannabis and nicotine is a huge problem.

He said the main avenue for SROs finding the vape pens are through word of mouth. These days, it’s a little harder to catch students using them in the act.

“They’re using their social media to communicate, they’re meeting in places where there’s nobody to see them, there’s no cameras available,” Fillyaw said.

With only two SROs working in a school filled with about 1,000 students, Fillyaw said it’s nearly impossible to catch every student who has a vape pen. But, he said they have caught about 16 students who have distributed, possessed, or used alcohol or drugs while on campus.

Fillyaw said some of those ended with arrests or some type of repercussion. Anytime a student is found with a vape pen, they will eventually head to the Justice Center to learn a lesson.

“These students have to come here and sit through a class and be educated on the dangers of vaping, using these kind of devices,” Fillyaw said. “Now, if there’s THC found in this vape pen, of course, there could also be criminal repercussions.”

He said on Monday, a student had just been arrested after the SROs found several vape pens in his possession.

Fillyaw said the SROs are doing as much as they can, but they need help from the parents.

“These kids are bringing this stuff, these vape pens, these gummies, these, you know, all these things with narcotics, involved, they’re bringing them from home,” he said. “You know … they’re not falling out of the sky. It starts at home.”

Parents on the other hand feel more can be done at school, especially when it comes to notifying them about when these kind of incidents happen.

Amanda Malicoat, a mother of a freshman at Sequoyah, said she was terrified when she knew something at the school was going on, but didn’t know what.

“I texted my daughter, and I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?'” Malicoat said. “She’s like, ‘Well, I’m not for sure.’ She said, ‘We’ve just been in this classroom for like four hours.'”

She said she knows law enforcement can’t catch all the drugs in a high school, but it shouldn’t be this bad of a problem.

She’s not the only parent with the same concerns.

“It’s so often, it seems normal to them, they (aren’t) shocked by it anymore. I talk to my kids about it often. They are afraid of it,” Sarah, a parent of two at the high school, said.

Sarah didn’t want to use her last name, because she didn’t want her children to face any repercussion for speaking out.

“It’s sad when kids have to be afraid to accept food, drinks, candy, snacks from friends and classmates by fear of accidental overdose,” Sarah said.

On Tuesday, the superintendent of the school district announced more would be done, such as educating teachers what to look for when it comes to drug use and bringing in more drug-sniffing K-9s into the schools.

Malicoat said teachers should also educate the kids, becaus she’s worried her daughter feels it’s normal to see so many drugs go through the school.

If anything, she said, the school needs to do a much better job of informing parents about what’s going on.

“We get phone calls for rain or snow, and when buses aren’t going to run,” Malicoat said. “And I understand those are important things, but I mean, our kids, possibly could have been in danger yesterday and not a peep out of anyone.”

Fillyaw said MCSO is working with the school district to try and crack down on the issue, and they would be making that plan over the next few days. In the past, MCSO along with the school district, the Monroe County Health Council and the Monroe County Health Department hosted seminars for parents and students about the dangers of vaping.

He said the juvenile involved in Tuesday’s incident was charged, and the two SROs are recuperating at home.