Valley News – Drug probe unfolds after 3 Hannover high school students hospitalized

Published: 03/29/2022 22:13:04

Modified: 03/29/2022 22:12:12

HANNOVER — Police and school investigations are ongoing after three students at Hanover High School were hospitalized after taking pills school officials believe they acquired from another student.

The three hospitalized students said they took pills that looked like Xanax, a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorder, Hanover High principal Julie Stevenson said in a message to families earlier this this month.

“The pills, obtained through third parties, can be blue in color and rectangular in shape, and are usually referred to as a ‘bar,'” Stevenson wrote. “A counterfeit Xanax (bar) and a real Xanax can look a lot alike. We urge parents and students to be extremely careful with all controlled substances and to pay particular attention to any pills or unknown substances obtained from anyone other than a prescriber.

At a meeting of the Dresden school board on March 15, Stevenson said the hospitalized students had recovered but did not go into details, according to a video recording. She said the school issued an “alert” to families on March 14 to encourage them to be on the lookout for counterfeit pills.

It “seems to be a higher level community issue,” she said in the recording. “A bit like a fire.”

It is unclear from statements by school officials when the students were hospitalized or if the three incidents happened at the same time or over multiple days.

School officials believe they have identified a student involved in distributing the pills, SAU 70 Superintendent Jay Badams said in an email Monday. He said: “Student privacy protections prevent me from sharing information that could identify people who may have been involved.”

Hanover Police Lt. Mike Schibuola confirmed in an email Tuesday that a student involved in the case has been identified and charges are pending.

“The Hannover Police Department is aware of an increase in problems regarding drug use by some students at Hannover High School,” Hannover police said in a prepared statement. “Drugs involved included edible cannabis and prescription pills like Xanax. These issues have been brought to our attention both by family members of students who have contacted us and by medical calls when students have had adverse reactions to these medications.

Rick Johnson, chairman of the Dresden School Board, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that school administrators provided the board with a brief overview of events at its March 15 meeting. Johnson said directors “didn’t want to give us a lot of information (that could) taint our decision-making.”

If a student is formally accused of being involved in drug trafficking on campus, the board will serve as the arbiter in the disciplinary case, Johnson said.

Johnson, whose children attended Hanover High between 2014 and 2021, said he had not heard of any previous incidents like this.

It’s the “first time I’ve seen something like this happen,” he said.

Johnson said he has “full confidence” that administrators are “handling this appropriately.”

Badams, at the meeting, suggested the district organize a public forum to discuss substance use, especially in light of the impending retail sale of marijuana in neighboring states such as Vermont. Additionally, Badams said it’s important for children and families to understand that “a simple curiosity can turn into an ER visit or worse.”

Johnson said he expects the investigation to be completed by the third week of April and the council will get more information at that point. Its next regular meeting will take place on April 26 at 7 p.m. in the Hanover high school library and online. An agenda will be posted by April 22 at https://go.boarddocs.com/nh/sau70/Board.nsf/vpublic?open.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Hanover Police on their non-emergency line, 603-643-2222; police information line, 603-643-7278; or online at https://www.hanovernh.org/user/182/contact.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3213.

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