MADISONVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Sequoyah High School will be closed Dec. 1 and 2 for cleaning and sanitizing after three people were taken to a hospital to be treated for fentanyl exposure.
Officials say two student resource officers and a school nurse are all stable after being exposed to fentanyl Tuesday at Sequoyah High School. All three were administered Narcan and transported to a local hospital.
According to investigators, the two SROs confiscated a vape pen after being called to remove a 17-year-old student from a classroom. A Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the contents of the device were tested and later confirmed to be fentanyl.
Sequoyah High parents shared their frustration about the lack of communication from the school. Several parents say they found out about the incident from social media and text messages from their kids.
“I mean a phone call would have been nice. You know, they send out phone calls telling us the bus doesn’t run, you know, the school is going to be out. They could have sent out a recorded message saying you know hey this is what’s going on in the school today we just want to make you aware if you want to come pick up your child, you can, you know, something,” said Dwan Brown.
Sequoyah High senior Tami Scott describes the scene as horrifying: “Both of our SR officers left the school on stretchers. It was horrifying. To go to school where you have to go to get an education and you’re scared to even go to school anymore.”
Parents and students say this is not the first time the school has had drug-related incidents, and according to parents, the school did not report previous incidents that may have happened.
“My son has said a few times this year at least 4 that a kid has ODd and I asked have they said anything to you? Like we don’t get a phone call, we don’t hear anything,” Brown said.
“People just passing out in the hallways, everybody getting locked in their classrooms, teachers running out of the classes to deal with it, ambulances, first responders. It makes me not want to go to school. I’m on the brink of truancy because I don’t want to go to school,” Scott said.
Neighbors who live near the school are concerned as well.
“Nobody’s telling us anything. We’re finding out from Facebook and students. Students have been coming home and telling parents and the stories are going out over Facebook and it’s just ridiculous. We can’t get anybody to tell us anything,” said Michael Hunt, a Madisonville resident and Sequoyah High graduate.
Hunt has a 5-year-old son who he says he’s worried about being exposed to drugs. “I mean I don’t want to see him around the stuff and from what I understand just a touch, just a touch of fentanyl can kill you and a grown adult just imagine what it can do to a kid. It’s scary stuff,” Hunt said.
A hazmat team with the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force was deployed to the school to remove any possible fentanyl residue. The Monroe County Schools Superintendent also shared that a private cleaning/restoration company will “thoroughly clean and sanitize the same area.” The school will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday for cleaning.
The Monroe County Director of Schools sent a full statement about the incident Tuesday:
At Sequoyah High School this afternoon, school personnel and numerous other agencies responded to a situation that sent two school resource officers and one school system employee in for medical examination and treatment due to possible physical exposure to fentanyl. We have since been told that all three are stable. Though federal privacy laws prevent us from sharing more specific information, we can confirm that a student has already been arrested in relation to this incident.
In working with the 10th Judicial Drug Task Force, the TBI, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, the Tennessee Dangerous Drug Task Force, the Sweetwater Police Department, and the Monroe County EMA, we can also confirm that the school area has been thoroughly inspected. To further confirm the area’s safety for our students and staff members moving forward, however, we have also contacted a private cleaning/restoration company to thoroughly clean and sanitize the same area.
We truly appreciate our partnerships with local law enforcement, as they were on the scene at the school within minutes. Yet we are also devastated that this situation occurred and interrupted our students’ learning while causing anxiety for all involved. At no point, however, did we feel in communicating and working with law enforcement that our students’ safety was at risk. That is why parents were allowed to pick up students at any point.
Our staff and our SROs come to work each day because they love kids, and we are grateful to hear that those three members of our team and of our school family are in stable condition tonight. Moving forward, we will work hard to take steps to curb any drug issues in our schools, including the use of random drug dog searches both inside our schools and all around our school grounds. We are already working with local law enforcement to move ahead with that plan, and parents and students should expect to see those drug dogs at our schools on a frequent basis in the coming weeks and months.
Additionally, we have scheduled a training for school faculty and staff on the signs and symptoms of drug use, and how to respond to these issues. As always, we will continue to work diligently to ensure the safety and security of all of our students and employees on a daily basis, and we appreciate the cooperation of our parents and community members in educating our children on the dangers of drug use and experimentation.Dr. Kristi Windsor
Director of Schools, Monroe County Schools