Students are suspended after pills make some ill Police say 9th-grader handed out medicine


Administrators at Catonsville High School have disciplined a group of students after a ninth-grader allegedly distributed her depression medication to classmates, causing some of them to become ill.

Police said yesterday that the unidentified 13-year-old passed out tablets of Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety and panic attacks, to classmates Tuesday.

Administrators learned that a group of students had taken the pills after one became sick in class, Principal Robert Tomback said.

"We very quickly worked to determine the origin of the student's illness," Tomback said. "We made a schoolwide announcement as a reminder to all students abut the danger of ingesting any unknown substance and the danger of misusing any prescription medication that is not prescribed specifically for them."

Tomback said about eight students were involved in the incident and that as a precaution, five of them were taken by ambulance to local hospitals to be examined.

Sgt. Kevin Novak, Baltimore County police spokesman, said officers went to the school about 1 p.m. Tuesday and helped take a 13-year-old girl, three 14-year-old girls, a 15-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy to the hospital.

Novak said the students' symptoms did not appear to be life-threatening. Charges are pending against the girl who allegedly distributed the pills, he said.

Tomback, citing confidentiality rules regarding students, declined to say what, if any, disciplinary action was taken.

But two ninth-graders said yesterday that they were unfairly suspended for accepting the pills, which they said they did not ingest.

Catherine McCurley, 13, and Krystal Cooper, 14, said they were handed the pills but quickly threw them away. They said they and six classmates were suspended until Tuesday and barred from tomorrow's homecoming dance.

The ninth-grader "came up to a group of us at lunch and said, 'Here, they'll make you feel like you're high,' " Catherine said. "I just looked at them and threw them behind me."

"I knew not to take them because they were prescription," Krystal said. "I had possession of [the pills] for three seconds before I threw them away. I don't think it's right that we were punished for doing the right thing."

Catherine's mother said administrators were sending a "mixed message" by suspending those who did not take the medicine.

"The kids who didn't take the pills did a good thing," Lori McCurley said.

Donald I. Mohler, spokesman for the county schools, said the student handbook lists misuse of prescription medication as an offense that can be punishable by expulsion. The principal interprets "misuse," he said.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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