Va. Gov. Youngkin issues guidelines for notifying parents of school-related drug overdoses

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order Wednesday aimed at bolstering the response to school-related drug overdoses after one northern Virginia school district reported 10 suspected student overdoses had taken place across six high schools less than halfway through the school year.

The order directs the Virginia Department of Education to issue guidance to school divisions to “notify all parents of school-connected overdoses within 24 hours,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Youngkin said Loudoun County Public Schools reportedly waited more than 20 days to notify parents of the overdoses.

“Parents have a right to know what’s going on in their child’s lives, especially in schools. Overdoses that occur on school grounds or are connected to the school must lead to an immediate parental notification,” Youngkin said. “School administrators’ first instinct when there is a problem cannot be to delay relevant information on critical children’s health and safety matters.”

Four of the 10 students had to be treated to doses of Naloxone, or Narcan, which is the same number of LCPS students that had to be treated with Naloxone during the entirety of the 2022-2023 school year, according to the district.

“This number is concerning and distressing, and we will do everything in our power to ensure this does not continue,” Loudoun County schools Superintendent Aaron Spence said in a letter to parents Wednesday. “Please know that we take this issue seriously.”

The governor’s order also calls for school divisions to work closely with law enforcement to prevent overdoses and bolster student education about the dangers of abusing drugs.

“Opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of far too many Virginians, devastating families and communities across the Commonwealth and we must continue to combat opioid abuse and overdoses with action and transparency,” Youngkin said.

In a statement to WTOP, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said he supports the executive order and that “nothing is more important than our children’s safety, and we all have a role to play.”

The order comes after eight overdoses over three weeks at Park View High School in Sterling, one of the schools named in Spence’s letter to parents. The letter also listed Broad Run, Briar Woods, Dominion, Loudoun County and Tuscarora High Schools as places where suspected drug overdoses took place.

All of the overdoses can be connected to fentanyl, often found in the form of a fake oxycodone pill that is blue, circular and may be stamped with “M30.” Spence outlined in his letter how the synthetic opioid is affecting young people across the country.

“Of course, this isn’t just a school issue–this is a local, state and national issue,” Spence said. “Schools reflect what is occurring in the community at large, which means this epidemic goes beyond our school walls. While it is often difficult to say exactly where students are getting these drugs and using them, we do know that some of these students are ingesting drugs prior to school and suffering the effects while in school.”

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the overdoses reported at Park View High School and will be assigning additional resources around the school to help identify the source of the distributed drugs.

WTOP’s Ciara Wells and Emily Venezky contributed to this report. 

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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