Selma high school student, 16, dies, 3 others hospitalized after possible exposure to fentanyl
SELMA, ALABAMA: An Alabama high school student died and as many as three other students were admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, November 8, after they fell sick. Reports suggest that the tragic incident most likely resulted from exposure to fentanyl. Authorities were called to Selma High School around lunchtime when pupils began showing signs of illness. The students who were hospitalized for evaluation are likely to recover.
A parent at the school informed WSFA12 that the student who died was a 16-year-old sophomore who became unresponsive in the cafeteria and was then given Narcan. He was declared dead at Vaughan Regional Medical Center. The deceased student's identity is not known, but Selma mayor James Perkins Jr indicated that he was close to his family and "considered him a son." According to Daily Mail, Perkins said in a statement, "Because the deceased is a juvenile, I will not mention him by name. Just know that his death is very close to me. Today, the investigation continues to determine exactly what took place at Selma High School."
The school district said they are awaiting toxicology testing to identify the cause of death since they are unsure whether the occurrences are all linked. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation is one of the state agencies whose representatives will continue the investigation.
Selma Police Department Captain Natasha Fowlkes spoke to CBS8 and stated, "Upon arrival, EMT administered CPR then transported the child to Vaughan Hospital where he was pronounced deceased." Fowlkes refused to admit that the drug fentanyl was what killed the student. "It's undetermined at the time, the cause of death, pending a toxicology report from the Department of Forensic Sciences," she stated.
"As a community, we are deeply saddened by the death of this young scholar,” stated Selma City Schools Superintendent Zickeyous Byrd in a press release. Byrd added, "We ask for prayers for the young man’s family, the faculty, staff, and students of Selma High School as we all continue to grieve. This is such a shock for our Saints Nation family."
Daily Mail reported that, according to school administrators, barely 11% of students showed up for a class on Thursday. Recent fentanyl prevalence was discussed in a meeting held at Selma High School only last week by the neighborhood drug awareness organization Drug Free Communities of Dallas County. The organization's director, Jerria Martin, stated, "We had an event just the Friday prior, we're always in the schools having workshops." A day before the incident involving Tara Burks, a counselor at Selma High School, her group released a video urging students to abstain from drugs and steer clear of fentanyl. Martin said, "This is not a Selma issue, this is a national issue."
In the US, fentanyl is the most lethal drug. According to CDC data, 66 percent of the country's around 108,000 fatalities in 2021 were caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Overdose deaths are also on the rise. From a projected 94,000 deaths in 2020, they climbed by over 15% in 2021.