Henderson Independent students OK after overdosing with pills

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2014

David Alberto said he learned his lesson after he ingested over-the-counter cough medicine Thursday morning at Henderson Independent High School and it sent him and four fellow students to the hospital.
Alberto, 15, obtained the pills from a fellow student, but became ill not long after taking nine of them. He said some other 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old student took nine and 10 pills each.
One of the students became sick and told school officials they’d all taken the pills, so school administrators called them all to the office.
Alberto said he was dizzy, he couldn’t walk straight, began vomitting and had diarrhea.
“A teacher asked me if I was OK because I wasn’t walking straight,” he said.
He told the teacher he was fine, but he wasn’t. When Alberto arrived at the hospital his vision wasn’t clear.
“I was looking at my stepmom and instead of seeing one, I saw four of her,” he said.
Alberto, lying on a hospital bed, was given something to counteract the pills he’d taken.
He said he’s never before intentionally taken more than the recommended amount of any medication.
“At the time I wasn’t feeling good. I was depressed. The dude that gave it to me said it would make me high. I said OK,” Alberto said.
He said they didn’t take the pills at the same time. Alberto took the pills in a class along with another friend.
He was suspended for three days, the first being Friday.
Alberto said his father, who is currently out of the country, told him he’d talk to him after he returned to North Carolina.
He would advise other teens not to take unprescribed medications.
“It’s not worth getting high. Then you have to go to the hospital and make your parents have to pay like $5,000 because you want to get high,” Alberto said.
Henderson Principal Lennetta Bartley spoke to media after school was dismissed Friday, explaining the school’s response.
She said once a student told of being sick and that others were involved, they had the school nurse assess the students. The nurse thought it was best to contact the parents and send the students to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where they were treated and released.
Bartley said this is not the first time a similar incident has occurred at the school. She said it is however, the first time multiple students have taken large amounts of medicines at the same time.
“It think it’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to know that what we are dealing with today is not unique to Henderson. This is a community-wide problem we have with our youth. It’s very important we get community members onboard,” she said.
Bartley said she is glad that the students weren’t more seriously ill, but wants to address this issue by enlisting the community’s support — not just at Henderson, but all of the schools within the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
Henderson has had school programs that addressed misuse of drugs, but more could be done, she said.
“Next year I would like to develop a curriculum that meets the needs of our students as it relates to drug education. That’s something that we don’t have in place. That’s something that I know we need here. And as a staff that’s something we’ve been talking about all year and we’re planning to do that,” Bartley said.
“This is a community problem that needs to be addressed because our children’s lives are at stake,” she said.
School System officials said parents received a Connect-ED message Thursday night from Bartley advising them of the dangers of children “taking prescribed and non-prescribed medications recklessly.”
Rowan-Salisbury School System spokeswoman Rita Foil wrote in an email to the Post that administrators at Henderson called 911 Thursday regarding an incident involving five students and over-the-counter cold medications.
Foil wrote in the email the school district’s response is following its Code of Conduct “and the staff is cooperating with law enforcement on an investigation.” Salisbury spokeswoman Elaney Hasselmann, however, said the Salisbury Police Department is not investigating the incident.
Foil later told a Post reporter that police spoke with the Rowan District Attorney’s Office to see if they could proceed criminally, but determined no criminal activity had taken place.
“They investigated enough to determine they would not investigate,” Foil said.
Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said the incident was a school matter and referred a Post reporter to Foil.
The Connect-ED message to parents, Foil said, was in an effort to “keep parents informed and aware of the school’s procedures that are in place to quickly address and respond to serious issues that students face on a daily basis.”
The message from Bartley went on to say “the only way that we can combat this reoccurring problem is with your help.”
Bartley encouraged parents who suspect their son or daughter is misusing medications to contact their doctor immediately.
She also suggested parents feel free to contact the school or speak with someone in Student Support Services who could provide them with community resources approved by the Board of Education.
Bartley also said she was available to discuss any questions parents might have.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.