STERLING, Va. (DC News Now) — After a cluster of overdoses has rocked the Park View High School community, PTA president and mother, Amy Gazes, said she hopes the school community will finally get the support it has long needed.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Oct. 31, citing that eight members of the Sterling school’s community had overdosed this school year. Following the release, a spokesman told DC News Now that a ninth person in the community overdosed.
Gazes said the issue is nothing new, and that Principal Jason Jefferson has long called for support and for parents to speak with their children about the dangers of taking drugs.
“The parents are very much aware that the issue is here. We are terrified. We want the help. The principal wants the help,” she said.
Gazes said after several incidents, parents received emails from Jefferson about medical incidents happening during the school day, though not specifically indicating medical overdoses.
She cited several critics of the school district are politicizing the administration’s handling of the issue and unfairly targeting Park View High School in a county-wide crisis. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office reports that countywide, there have been 19 school-related overdoses so far this year, already matching last year’s total.
On Nov. 1, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order mandating that school divisions notify families within 24 hours of any school-related overdoses. Gazes said the timing and criticism of the school’s response is political posturing, coming the week before statewide elections.
“I’m deeply offended that you’re going to try to use our children for this political pawn,” she said.
Sheriff Mike Chapman told DC News Now that it’s not a political issue.
“What’s different about this is that it’s an accute problem in a particular area that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed quickly before any of these teenagers lose their lives,” Chapman said. “It has nothing to do with problems, it has to do with the safety of the children, and notification to the parents that we need help in solving this issue.”
Chapman said he recently installed a second school resource officer in the Park View community.
Gazes said that the upside to the attention being placed on the school is that the county will now seemingly provide much-needed support to the school community.
“Silver lining, it’s out there in the public now, and we’re going to get the help and support that we need and that Dr. Jefferson and school have been asking for,” Gazes said.
She said the priority must be addressing the root cause of students taking drugs.
“These kids are waking up at 9 o’clock in the morning and saying ‘I can’t go to school without taking a Schedule I narcotic to function.’ I think we need to figure out the support. The counseling support. Just to figure out, ‘why?’,” Gazes said.
Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence’s office did not DC News Now’s request for an interview.
LCSO and Loudoun County Public Schools will hold a community meeting about the dangers of substance abuse on Sat. Nov. 4 at Park View High School from 10:30 to 11:30am.