By Manuel Holguin, Dallas Free Press

L.G. Pinkston High School recently hosted two fentanyl awareness meetings for parents in response to teenage overdoses and deaths in Dallas-Fort Worth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. The drug is rising in popularity among adolescents, leading to increased overdoses among young people between the ages of 10 and 19.

The mishandling of fentanyl can lead to addiction, overdose, and death.

The first Pinkston meeting, held during the school and work day, was poorly attended by parents, so community leaders asked for a second meeting at a more accessible time. The second meeting, on a recent Monday evening, attracted a handful of community members and only a couple of parents, who pressed teachers and staff to educate students on the harmful effects of the drug. 

Dallas ISD’s Marlene Yepez-Porras and Pinkston parent instructor Anthony McGee told those present that the school’s staff is working with the DISD to approve training for teachers and staff on fentanyl awareness. The staff emphasized that parents must also help by speaking with children about the dangers of fentanyl and how to keep an eye out for signs of drug use outside of school.

Concerns heightened after four Pinkston students recently overdosed on drugs. DISD verified that four students were experiencing overdosing symptoms during school after ingesting an unknown substance. They were transported to a hospital where, later, their parents communicated with the school that the substance was not fentanyl. All students are safe and back in school, have gone through the school of conduct process, and were disciplined accordingly.

Yepez-Porras and McGee pointed out at the meeting that they could not test the students due to an 18- to 24-month testing backlog with the Dallas ISD Police Department. Also, the cost is $5,000 per test. 

Parents say the backlog shows a need for more resources to address the issue of drug testing in schools.

Dallas ISD’s school board approved a new policy last week allowing staff to be trained to administer Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of opioid drugs. However, Pinkston staff say because the drug was only recently approved, they are still waiting for the medication to be available on campus.

Other school districts already have it available, such as Austin, which announced it would be acquiring Narcan last fall, and Garland, where all middle and high school nurses began carrying Narcan in February.   

Several Pinkston parents launched a Parent-Teacher Organization last October and have been active in addressing issues that come up on campus. Even before the fentanyl concerns, some parents and community members were organizing prayer walks around the school, and calling emergency meetings to address concerns around on-campus violence leading to lockdowns, when students are barricaded in their classrooms for safety purposes, and entry to the school isn’t allowed.

Here are a few more fentanyl resources:

Dallas ISD Fentanyl Facts for Parents

Texas Targeted Opioid Response (TTOR)

Fighting Fentanyl

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA)
Phoenix House Texas

This story was co-published by our media partner, Dallas Free Press. Follow their work, @dallasfreepress on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or subscribe to text or email.