As police continue to investigate how three 7th grade boys in Hartford, Connecticut, got their hands on deadly fentanyl inside their school on January 13, the district announced new efforts to ensure it never happens again.
One of those boys, a 13-year-old, died after ingesting a lethal dose of the drug inside a classroom.
On Wednesday, students returned to Sport and Medical Sciences Academy for the first time since that deadly fentanyl exposure.
Police said they believed one of the three students who were exposed to the drug is responsible for bringing 40 bags of it to school, but they don’t know whether they realized what they were dealing with was so potent, so powerful, and so deadly.
The head of opioid services for the State of Connecticut says fentanyl is 10 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
"Fentanyl can be deadly in very small doses, even doses as small as a few grains of salt are lethal,” said Luiza Barnat the director of opioid services for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction.
The district said it will now do random bag checks in schools and supply nurses in all schools with Narcan.
“Narcan is actually the brand name for a prescription medication called Naloxone, and naloxone is used in the event of an opioid overdose. It’s a very safe medication which only works on reversing an opioid overdose and it can save a person’s life,” said Barnat.
Nearly a week after the fentanyl was discovered inside two classrooms and a gym at the Hartford magnet school, police said they are still trying to pinpoint the original source.
“Unbelievable. You know, I still don’t believe it,” said David Olmeda of Hartford.
As school and city officials scrambled to come up with ways to keep this from happening again, some parents are asking why did it happen in the first place?
“They can hide that on themselves, on their bodies. They can have it anywhere. You don’t know. What you gonna do, pat the kid down? But, the point is how did he get his hands on it at the age of 13?” said Maribel Ramos of Hartford.
“A kid that small, they just don’t know. They don’t know. Some kid could have it. He doesn’t know what it is. He found it at home. He found it on the street. They think it’s candy or something and that’s all it takes,” added Luis Figuerora.
School nurses will go through Narcan training before the end of the week.
Middle and high school students will be taught how to recognize warning signs of drug use in their peers. The district says it will also increase its drug awareness efforts for all grades, including creating an age-appropriate curriculum for younger students on the dangers of drugs and how to identify them.
Meanwhile, the City of Hartford said it intends to do additional training for its youth service providers.
“I think that this tragic loss on Thursday was eye-opening for a lot of people about the importance of being prepared in every environment,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.
Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres Rodriguez did not go on camera Wednesday and NBC Connecticut attempts to reach members of the Hartford School Board went unanswered.
“We are emotionally devastated by this painful loss. We take very seriously the health and safety of all our students,” Torres Rodriguez said in a statement.
“It’s sad. It’s really sad that it’s in the school system now,” said Ramos.
A news release from the Mayor’s office outlined extra steps the district will take to teach students about the dangers of drugs, but encouraged parents to start that conversation at home.
Some parents are already doing that and said they made sure to have an extra talk after last week’s tragedy.
“I tell him if there’s something going on, walk away. I tell him if this happens walk away, you walk away,” said Figuerora.
Ramos said her family has dealt with deadly drug addiction. She’s employed a common catchphrase to discourage her daughter from experimenting with drugs.
“Just say no. You never know what it is. You don’t know what they are giving you,” she said.
Hartford Police say they are not using surveillance camera footage in their investigation to figure out which student stashed the drugs. A spokesperson for the school district says there are cameras in the schools but would not comment on their locations.