Dangerous drugs on campus have kids speaking out at Vermont high school

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 4:56 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - An investigation is underway at Brattleboro Union High School involving possible fentanyl-laced drugs ingested by two students. The kids are OK, but the incident continues to concern the community.

The two recent drug-related medical emergencies have this community doing something students say doesn’t always happen: They are talking about it.

“So last week was pretty frightening,” said Cassie Damkoehler, the interim principal at Brattleboro Union High School.

Damkoehler wrote a letter to parents she hoped she would never have to send. It informed them that two students took pills on campus which were possibly laced with fentanyl and ended up needing immediate medical care.

“I also wanted the parents to know that we were going to have an open dialogue about it because our students are at an age where I feel like they can and should be able to have those conversations,” Damkoehler said.

That same day she held assemblies to tell the students exactly what happened.

“The students that popped into my office after say, ‘Thank you, Ms. D. In the past this would have been an email next week,’” Damkoehler said.

School officials believe the students got the pills from a peer on campus but they declined to offer additional details.

Both kids who took the drugs ended up being OK.

Senior Kaiya Colby is friends with one of them.

“We’ve all seen downtown and all these different areas where drugs have really hit hard. And I never really thought that school would become one of those places,” Colby said.

I was welcomed into the principal’s office, along with a few students, to talk about the incident.

Damkoehler says her door is always open when kids are in crisis, and she says open dialogue builds trust within the school community.

At one point, Colby directly addressed her principal and said, “You guys were really able to quash a lot of the rumors and misconceptions of what happened so quickly and I was just really appreciative of that.”

“I was scared, too,” said Ben Berg, a junior.

Berg and Colby are student reps on the district’s school board.

“It’s not a kid problem-- but as we’ve seen through the last five or 10 years, these non-kid problems have been kid problems,” Berg said.

“I think it is important that everybody knows about this,” said Rock Weiss, a junior.

Weiss is 16 and an example that kids these days are growing up fast. A relative of his died of an overdose when he was much younger.

“The more awareness we spread about it in any way possible, then hopefully more people will realize that it’s a big deal and it should not be happening here,” Weiss said.

The Brattleboro police chief declined to be interviewed about the incident, however, she did tell me there is an open and active investigation.

Related Story:

2 Vt. students suffer medical emergencies possibly related to fentanyl-laced drugs