Boy Hospitalized Following Suspected Overdose at CT School

A seventh-grader at a Hartford school is in “grave condition” after ingesting a substance believed to be fentanyl and collapsing during gym class

Christine Dempsey

Hartford Courant

(MCT)

A seventh-grader at a Hartford school is in “grave condition” after ingesting a substance believed to be fentanyl and collapsing during gym class Thursday morning, Mayor Luke Bronin said. The school, the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy, is closed Friday for cleaning.

Two other seventh-graders were believed to be exposed to the drug and were also transported to the hospital, officials said.

“All of our hearts and prayers are with the child who remains hospitalized in grave condition, and with his loved ones,” Mayor Luke Bronin said.

“This is one more lesson that fentanyl is a poison. These drugs are a poison. And please, if you’re a parent, have that tough conversation with your child tonight,” Bronin added.

The school is closed while the campus is thoroughly cleaned — a process that is expected to take several days, Principal Alison Giuliano said in a letter to students’ families and staff Thursday night.

The overdose happened about 10:30 a.m. at the magnet school at 280 Huyshope Ave. The boy collapsed in gym class and was unresponsive, officials said.

A school nurse initiated CPR until fire department personnel arrived and took over, District Fire Chief Mario Oquendo Jr. said. Firefighters were relieved by medics, after which “rhythm returned for that student and CPR was stopped,” he said.

When staff learned that the boy had ingested drugs, staff sought out and found the other two boys who had been with him earlier, officials said.

Officials said the other two students, who never lost consciousness, were together in a classroom in a different part of the school at the time the boy collapsed.

The other two boys, who are between the ages of 12 and 13, are also in seventh grade, said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent of Hartford Schools.

All three students were taken to Connecticut Children’s.

“I want to extend my heart to the seventh-grader, his entire family, the other two students that were involved, and to the entire school community at Sport and Medical Sciences Academy,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “This has been, and continues to be, a really hard day for all of us.”

Hartford schools’ crisis team was deployed earlier to provide counseling and other resources to students, she said.

The overdose triggered a “Code Yellow” alert, which means students and staff had to stay put while the boys were put into ambulances.

The alert remained in place at 2 p.m. as officers with drug-sniffing dogs continued to check the building. The school did not distribute lunches so as to not risk further exposure, Torres-Rodriguez said.

During a search of the school grounds, bags containing fentanyl were found in at least two classrooms as well as the gym, police said.

Officials believe the bags of fentanyl were brought into the school by a student, Bronin said.

Police did not say what form the substance was in. Drugs such as cocaine are sometimes cut with fentanyl because it is extremely potent.

Dismissal was initially planned for the usual time, 2:20 p.m., Fergus said, but buses of students didn’t begin to leave the school until around 3:30 p.m.

All students had to walk through a solution of bleach and OxyClean before leaving the school, in order to neutralize potential fentanyl exposure, police said.

Police spokesperson Lt. Aaron Boisvert told WTNH Channel 8 that the other two students apparently reported being dizzy, but officials have not commented on the extent of the exposure experienced by the other two students.

It was not immediately clear whether the other two students also ingested the drug, or whether exposure was intentional, officials said.

It was unclear where in the school the boy ingested the substance, said Jason Thody, Hartford police chief.

Torres-Rodriguez said Hartford schools are not currently equipped with Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, which is used in emergencies to treat narcotics overdoses.

“As with every crisis incident, we will have debriefs not just internally, but also with our partners. In collaboration, we will determine what else we would need to consider,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “This is something that we have to consider moving forward, and at the direction of our partners for us to determine to what extent the training and support is necessary.”

Responders from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and police searched the school again Thursday evening. In addition to the DEA and DEEP, the state police are helping with the investigation, which involves a half-dozen divisions of the Hartford Police Department.

Anyone who has information about the overdose is asked to call the Hartford police tip line at 860-722-8477 (TIPS).

The academy, located at 280 Huyshope Ave., is a college preparatory magnet school for students in grades six through 12 who are interested in sports and medical sciences.

Seamus McAvoy may be reached at smcavoy@courant.com

Christine Dempsey may be reached at cdempsey@courant.com

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