WESTPORT — A “terrifying sign of the times and a traumatic experience” unfolded last week, Supt, of Schools Thomas Scarice said in a cautiously worded statement Tuesday, referring to an incident in which several Westport students became ill apparently after consuming narcotics that resembled candy.
The statement, which Scarice had promised to issue after disclosing the incident at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, provided no new information about the incident as first reported by the Westport Journal.
As the superintendent said Monday, he reiterated, “I am not at liberty to share additional information and details about this specific incident due to federal laws that protect student privacy. Additionally, I cannot compromise the outcomes of ongoing investigations regarding this issue.”
On Monday, he cited constraints imposed by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act and the continuing investigation as reasons why he could not discuss any details about the incident publicly.
Parents at the school board meeting, however, said several Long Lots School Elementary School students last week ingested drugs they believed to be candy, which they apparently discovered on a school bus.
The substance caused the students to become violently ill and required hospital treatment, according to the parents, who were upset about what they said was a lack of transparency about the incident.
Local school and health officials in October had issued a warning that fentanyl, a potentially deadly narcotic, was being circulated as colorful, candy-like pills.
Scarice, without touching on any circumstances, the substance, place or the students involved, instead on Tuesday said he wanted to “advance parent education on this topic, and to implore those who care for children to be vigilant about candy, chocolate and other foods that could contain substances that may pose a health and safety risk to our children.”
The superintendent’s unedited statement, which cites resources regarding drug abuse and counseling, follows:
Last week, there was a school-related incident in which students became ill after ingesting what appeared to be candy. This is a terrifying sign of the times and a traumatic experience for the students and families involved. Last night at the Board of Education meeting, I made a statement on this matter.
I am not at liberty to share additional information and details about this specific incident due to federal laws that protect student privacy. Additionally, I cannot compromise the outcomes of ongoing investigations regarding this issue. However, I can take this as an opportunity to advance parent education on this topic, and to implore those who care for children to be vigilant about candy, chocolate, and other foods that could contain substances that may pose a health and safety risk to our children.
On January 10, 2023, retail cannabis sales will become legal in Connecticut. As a result, we expect cannabis to be more accessible in the community, making the necessity of our awareness and vigilance even more important.
As members of the Westport Prevention Coalition, the Westport Public Schools is collaborating with community agencies to raise awareness about the risks associated with the legalization of cannabis and its potential impact on children and adolescents.
In light of this recent incident, I want to emphasize to families that it is especially important for those caring for our youngest students to remind their children not to consume candy, chocolate, or other food from unknown sources. Children could become very ill, sometimes with fatal consequences, from consuming foods containing drugs or other potentially harmful substances.
In addition, all families should remind their children of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and that there can be serious school-related and criminal consequences for possessing, selling, or distributing drugs and alcohol on school grounds or at school-sponsored events. To be sure, the school district strictly prohibits the possession, sale, distribution, use, and consumption of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, vapor products, and certain other substances on school grounds, on school buses, at school-sponsored activities, and at certain times outside of school. However, the reality is that these substances still exist in our community, and we must continue to educate our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
This education must now include ensuring that our youngest children understand the importance of avoiding candy, chocolate, and other foods that they find at school, on a school bus, or somewhere else in the community, or that is offered to them by someone they do not know or do not know well.
Please click this link for additional information on this topic from the Westport Prevention Coalition and WPS Supervisor of Health Services, Sue Levasseur.
I encourage you to discuss this important topic with your children. To assist you in these conversations, I am attaching factsheets prepared by the Westport Prevention Coalition (www.westporttogether.org/prevention-coalition). More information on this important topic can be found at https://beintheknowct.org/parents/.
If you have any questions or would like support from school staff around this issue, please reach out to your child’s building principal who can share appropriate school resources.