PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A “likely fentanyl exposure” at Willamina High School on Tuesday affected multiple students and a law enforcement officer, according to the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office.
YCSO said that a deputy came to campus to conduct a follow-up investigation of a case, and was asked by a staff member to assist with a bathroom check regarding a suspicious odor — the bathroom was inside a modular classroom and not connected to the main building.
Officials said the deputy requested that staff and students exit the classroom after noticing a strong, acrid smell in the room, adding the deputy began feeling unwell and was exhibiting signs of a possible overdose. Multiple students also reported that they felt unwell. One student was taken to Salem Hospital via ambulance, while two other students were observed by EMS personnel, YCSO said.
The deputy was also taken to the hospital and treated in the emergency room, according to authorities. YCSO said the deputy reported having tightness in the chest with a restricted ability to breathe, tingling in the fingers, loss of feeling in the lower extremities and a sensation of floating. The sheriff’s office also stated that the deputy exhibited confusion, the inability to speak coherently and the inability to articulate what had taken place.
The results of a toxicity screening on the deputy are pending, but YSCO believes that a student may have been burning pills containing fentanyl on a piece of foil in the bathroom of the modular classroom.
The Willamina School District sent an email to parents notifying them of the incident, and the affected classroom was ventilated and thoroughly cleaned, according to officials.
Some parents tell KOIN 6 this is a tight-knit community and while they’re scared for their kids to go back to school, it’s also encouraging them to fight for transparency from the district.
Parents were left stunned and scared after learning students were exposed to possible fentanyl while in class at Willamina High School. Some say they didn’t hear from the school until hours later after the kids were already home, initially getting an alert that read, “an unknown chemical/gas substance was detected in an HS modular classroom.”
“The notification I did receive at 8:20 last night was that there was a gas leak,” said Tina Hoffman, whose child is a junior at the high school. “There has to be something to keep our kids safe from this.”
“It’s hitting too close to home. That was my daughter’s friend that went to the hospital,” added Crystal Williams, whose has a freshman and junior at the high school. “It could’ve ended so much differently. Fortunately, it didn’t and all the kids, from my understanding, are okay.”
One parent tells KOIN 6 her son is in the same class where it happened and she never received a notification from the school. She says her son told teachers his worries about other students’ drug use in the bathroom, and she even met with school officials late last week.
“I actually had a meeting with the vice principal, this said teacher of this classroom, another teacher and the attendance lady. My son is not wanting to be in this classroom for that reason,” said Kim Eddy, whose has a freshman and junior at the high school. “Said teacher of this class assured me that they are being watched closely. Three days, three school days later, this happens, just for somebody walking into the bathroom where they should be okay.”
The superintendent of Willamina School District, Carrie Zimbrick, tells KOIN 6 that she’s sad a student would bring drugs on campus, putting others in danger, and says they’re following the advice of law enforcement and will be “seeking further education and training related to this incident.” Parents say their concerns go further, hoping more will be done when it comes to notifying all parents as soon as something happens at the school.
“Communication, it’s got to change for the school to parents,” said Eddy. “It scares me. It really does.”
According to YCSO, there have been multiple fentanyl overdoses in the county this week and said that there are distribution concerns about a “particularly potent batch of counterfeit pills.”