A junior at Hood River Valley High School was hospitalized last Thursday after using methamphetamine and collapsing on the track with heart palpitations.
Two of her classmates, one male and one female, and a freshman girl were arrested shortly after that incident for possession of the same illicit substance.
All four students are facing a possible one-year expulsion from the school for violating the code against drug use. And Principal Steve Fisk said it is time for the Hood River community to tackle the growing problem of meth use among its youth.
“Crystal meth is dangerous, it kills and it is highly addictive — we all need to work together to take a stand and protect our kids,” he said.
His concern is based not only on the recent incident, but on the results of a 2001 teen survey that also alarmed members of Hood River’s Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition. According to the survey, 21 percent of all 11th graders and six percent of all sixth grade students admitted that they had used meth within a 30-day period.
“One of the things I want to communicate to the kids is that they are basically poisoning themselves,” said Fisk, who held an assembly on Tuesday to deliver “straight talk” about the latest incident.
“On a personal level, I feel very disappointed in the choices these kids made,” he said.
To underscore the seriousness of ingesting meth, Fisk showed students the ingredients used in the manufacturing process, including battery acid, acetone, bleach and fertilizer.
“I thought I really needed to talk honestly about what had happened and what meth is all about,” he said.
Hood River County Detective Gerry Tiffany, who is investigating the May 22 incident, said all four students thought they were ingesting cocaine, a plant-derivative, and were surprised to learn that meth is made purely from chemicals.
He said meth is extremely addictive and regular users often need multiple treatments to break the habit. He said frequent meth users suffer from open sores on the skin, the loss of teeth, hallucinations and extreme paranoia.
“I asked one of these girls if she would have still taken the meth if she knew it was made with battery acid and she said ‘no’,” Tiffany said.
He said ambulance personnel were called to the school shortly after noon when the 17-year-old teen was stricken with an erratic heartbeat while trying to run after she had gotten high. According to Tiffany, the girl said it was her first time using the drug and the other two girls involved in the case said they had only used it twice. The male student was also found with marijuana and charged not only with that additional possession but for providing his freshman colleague with the meth they had all ingested.
Fisk applauded emergency responders for arriving at the scene and wrapping up the transport and arrests within 12 minutes.
“It was pretty amazing,” he said.
Because of ambiguities in Oregon law, Tiffany said the girl transported from the school by ambulance could not be charged with any crime since she was not physically caught with the drug. Fisk believes that citizens need to demand the closure of that legal loophole.
“That is sending such a dangerous message to our children that it just disheartens me and I want to change it,” he said.
Fisk has asked students to help school and law enforcement officials catch drug dealers who sell meth to students. He is requesting that anyone with information about these individuals leave an anonymous tip in his office, or with a teacher.
Tiffany is responsible to track down these leads and can be reached confidentially at 387-6846.
“The adults who are doing this to our kids have to be stopped,” Fisk said.
Meanwhile, Tiffany is helping prosecutors prepare a case against two men who were caught operating a mobile meth lab on Saturday. Dennis E. Luther, 29, of Troutdale and Howard C. Macy, 45, of South Beach were arrested near Wyeth for cooking a batch of the chemicals in the trunk of their vehicle with a gas generator. They were apprehended after a citizen reported the suspicious activity and a deputy responded to the scene and found them in action.