Thomson Elementary School in northwest Washington, D.C. is known for being the first school in the District to offer Chinese as a second language, and for being the closest elementary school to the White House. Now the school is making national headlines for a student bringing something other than lunch and books to school – cocaine.
Five children were hospitalized after ingesting or sniffing an unclear amount of the drug after the student brought it to school, according to D.C. public schools spokesman, Frederick Lewis. After students complained of pain in their throats, a teacher at the school spoke to the student that brought the substance to school and immediately alerted the main office. The children were taken to Children’s National Medical center as a precautionary measure after an evaluation by a school nurse. The students were determined to be fine after being examined and were released from the hospital’s care.
Leadership at the school notified the parents of the students involved and met with a group of concerned parents after school to address concerns. “This is not a situation that is typical at Thomson, and we take it very seriously,” wrote Albert DuPont, the principal of the school, in a statement.
The principal informed parents that the Metropolitan Police Department and Child Protective Services had been told of the incident. Counselors were available March 21, at the school, to discuss drug prevention and the dangers of using drugs. “As always, we are committed to providing a safe environment for your child,” wrote Du Pont.
But that becomes difficult when budget cuts force schools to curb vital services such as drug prevention measures, said Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teacher’s Union. “No drug awareness and prevention programs were available this year at Thomson Elementary and in many DC public schools,” Saunders said in a statement. “Thomson’s events indicate why teachers and students need more support and not less.” According to the union, the proposed budget cuts to these programs in the 2012 fiscal year will have dramatic effects on the school’s climate.
According to schools spokesman Lewis, the child who brought the drug to school was charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Daniel Okonkwo, of DC Lawyers for Youth, said they are concerned that the punishment takes into consideration the age of the student. “We should have a system a response that teaches a lesson, but doesn’t make it more that this young man with be thrown off developmentally,” said Okonkwo. “You have to take into account this young man’s age and balance that with how he should be treated. I’m not sure if extended time off of school would have the desired affect and will properly rehabilitate him.”
The boy was in the custody of Child Protective Services since the event occurred, but was released to his parents March 22 after a hearing in D.C. Superior Court.
According to a school spokesman, the other children that ingested the cocaine were in school March 21 and the boy was not.
This is the third drug incident in DC public schools this year, two of which involved marijuana.