How Montgomery Co. schools plan to crack down on students’ fentanyl use

The Montgomery County Public School system has released a plan to combat the rise in opioid use and overdoses in the Maryland county’s over 200 schools — including a crackdown on how long and when students can be in the restroom.

In a statement released Friday, the Maryland school system announced it would take immediate and strategic actions to inform the community about the dangers of fentanyl — which has, as of Jan. 24, resulted in over 11 cases of youth overdoses in the county’s schools since the beginning of the school year, according to the school system’s spokesperson Jessica Baxter.

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

In middle schools, latches will be installed on exterior restroom doors, and there will be limited access to restrooms during transition periods and unstructured times, such as before school, after school and during lunch periods.

It claims the increase in staff monitoring will deter the usage of drugs during the school day.

Some more long-term strategies include reviewing and revising the school system’s code of conduct, expanding staff and officer training, conducting assemblies on safety and student well-being and a pilot program for student “badges,” or hall monitors.

“MCPS is committed to ensuring all students have a safe and nurturing environment to learn and thrive. All staff members 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 to access the county’s resources.

“I’m here to raise an alarm, to say that these drugs are readily available to our students, they are on the rise in our community, and they are resulting in 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 highlighted the use of the lifesaving drug Narcan to stop overdoses and taught parents and students alike how to use it at another family forum in Clarksburg in January.

During the forum, a panel of health experts spoke on the importance of parents talking with their kids about fentanyl, Narcan training and Maryland’s good Samaritan Law, which prevents students from being penalized for reporting overdoses.

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

Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, accounted for over 71,000 fatal overdoses in 2021 — up from more than 57,000 in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ciara Wells

Ciara Wells is a freelance digital writer/editor at WTOP. She is a recent graduate of American University where she studied journalism and Spanish. Before joining WTOP, she was the opinion team editor at a student publication and a content specialist at an HBCU in Detroit.

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