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How the schools of Montgomery Co. intend to address student use of fentanyl


The school system in Montgomery County, Maryland, has released a plan to address increased opioid use and overdoses.

The Montgomery County Public School System has released a plan to curb the rise in opioid use and overdoses in the county of Maryland’s more than 200 schools — including a crackdown on how long and when students are allowed to use the restroom.

In a statement released Friday, the Maryland school system announced it would take immediate and strategic steps to educate the community about the dangers of fentanyl — which has led to more than 11 overdose cases among youth in the state since Jan. 24. schools of the county since the beginning of the school year, according to school system spokesperson Jessica Baxter.

In its new plan, the school system said that due to the increase in students spending more time using drugs in the restrooms, staff will “increase the frequency of their visual monitoring and checks in restrooms throughout the school day, between class hours and during lunch breaks.”

In high schools, latches are installed on outside restroom doors and there is limited access to restrooms during transition periods and unstructured times, such as before school, after school, and during lunch periods.

It claims that increased surveillance by staff will discourage drug use during the school day.

Some more long-term strategies include reviewing and reviewing the school system’s code of conduct, expanding staff and officer training, holding student safety and welfare meetings, and piloting student badges or hall monitors.

“MCPS is committed to ensuring that all students have a safe and stimulating environment in which to learn and thrive. All staff are responsible for promoting school safety and contributing to a safe, supportive and inclusive school climate for all students and staff,” they concluded in the statement.

Community Efforts

In January, Superintendent Monifa McKnight and Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones spoke at a community forum, calling on the community to be more vigilant and gain access to the county’s resources.

“I’m here to sound the alarm, to say that these drugs are readily available to our students, that they are on the rise in our community and that they are causing death,” McKnight said. “And it has to stop.”

Chief Jones also reported that there were 48 youth overdoses in 2022, compared to 27 in 2021. Eleven of last year’s overdoses were fatal.

Other community leaders emphasized the use of the life-saving drug Narcan to stop overdoses and taught parents and students how to use it at another family forum in Clarksburg in January.

At the forum, a panel of health experts spoke about the importance of parents talking to their children about fentanyl, Narcan training, and Maryland’s Good Samaritan law, which prevents students from being punished for reporting overdoses.

Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biotech Emergent BioSolutions is urging the FDA to make Narcan available without a prescription.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, were responsible for more than 71,000 fatal overdoses in 2021 — up from more than 57,000 in 2020.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.