Two C.J. Hooker Middle School students were hospitalized after using an unknown substance on Tuesday, May 3.
It is the second incident of its kind to happen at Goshen schools this year. Less than a month ago on April 7, two high school students were sent to Garnet Health’s emergency room via ambulance with pale skin, unsteady gait, elevated heart rates, nausea and vomiting. The high schoolers later admitted they consumed substances with THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
The middle school students hospitalized on May 3 showed similar symptoms.
“There seems to be a common thread of THC with edibles and vapes,” said Goshen Central School District Superintendent Kurtis Kotes. But the C.J. Hooker incident is still under investigation by the Village of Goshen Police Department, and the substances taken by the middle school students have not been confirmed.
The middle school students claim to have used the substance prior to arriving at school. As of press time, both were under observation and recovering.
Coincidentally, Goshen Central School District conducted a drug sweep with the police department and drug sniffing dogs on May 3, which was scheduled prior to the middle school incident. Despite rumors circulating on social media about fentanyl, there was no fentanyl found at the school. The dogs on site were trained to sniff out THC specifically; vape liquids and edibles were discovered.
Incidents increased five-fold
Substance abuse among students skyrocketed this year.
“Our data is exponentially higher than it’s been in the past,” said Kotes. When a student is found to be using or in possession of a substance on school property, the principal can suspend that student for five days. But, Kotes explained, when it’s a serious matter such as drugs, principals can call for a superintendent’s hearing to potentially extend that suspension.
“On average, we run maybe 10 of those a year,” said Kotes. “They are much, much higher this year. They’re five times that amount.”
And the issue isn’t specific to Goshen schools. Synthetic marijuana, marijuana and unknown vaped substances caused at least 19 teen overdoses throughout Orange County this year.
But why are students turning to substances now?
“I think it is a combination of accessibility, of student mental health, and a general air of uncertainty that exists as we’re try to battle our way out of a health pandemic here,” said Kotes.
The D.A.R.E. program hasn’t been around for years – but the Goshen School District does partner with organizations such as the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Council of Orange County and New York Project Hope to teach students about the dangers of substance abuse.
Just last week, the high school hosted a presentation that discussed the dangers of pills, vaping and THC.
“We’re trying to pump as much education in as we possibly can,” said Kotes. But when that doesn’t work, the district turns to on site personnel and faculty – and as a last resort, drug sweeps – to get substances out of the schools.
In a letter to parents, the superintendent urged parents to speak to their children about the dangers of substance abuse. “I implore our families to have these types of conversations with their children, and to have them often,” he said. “We often say ‘it takes a village’ and we must work together to keep our children safe.”