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Five Magnolia Students Will Face Hearings

By Staff | Nov 25, 2009

The five juveniles, three males and two females, involved in the drug-related incident at Magnolia High School Nov. 13 will face expulsion hearings with the Wetzel County Board of Education next week.

The board is holding special meetings at the county office. On Dec. 1 two students will be addressed and on Dec. 2 the remaining three will have their time before the board. Both of the meetings begin at 6 p.m.

Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught said this case is rather unique because of the drug that was involved. It was not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

In West Virginia it is a criminal violation to distribute a controlled substance that falls under five schedules. There are also other drugs that are referred to as target, or prescription, drugs that do not come with the same stipulations and penalties.

“They can be harmful if taken by someone who does not have a prescription for them, but they don’t fall into the schedules of controlled substances,” said Haught.

The drug taken at MHS that day, lamotrigine, falls in the target category. Lamotrigine is used to treat seizures in people with epilepsy and is sometimes used to help prevent the manic and/or depressive phases of bipolar disorder.

“It can have harmful side effects,” noted Haught. An internet search shows the side effects of the drug include abdominal pain, back pain, blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, double vision, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, increased cough, insomnia, nausea, rash, runny nose, sleepiness, sore throat, uncoordinated movements, and vomiting.

But the most serious and even prevalent side effect is a rash that can require hospitalization. The incidence of these rashes, which have included Stevens-Johnson syndrome, is approximately eight per 1,000 in pediatric patients (ages two to 16).

“In rare cases it can even result in death,” Haught said of the syndrome. “That did not happen in this case, but the student became ill and as a precaution he was taken to the emergency room.”

Obviously use of the drug can be dire, even deadly, yet it still isn’t listed as a controlled substance and therefore is not addressed under the Safe Schools Act.

Therefore, said Haught, “Basically the board is going to pursue disciplinary action based on violations of policy and other violations of law which would include obtaining a prescription drug from someone other than a pharmacist and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Also, the code permits disciplinary action against students for causing injury to other students.

While the criminal codes utilized in Wetzel County Magistrate Court and the disciplinary action may be different, the prosecutor said this is an event that could trigger expulsion.

“We’re going to deal with it on that level which is, I guess, somewhat unusual because in all the prior cases we have had a controlled substance,” said Haught. However, they are not alone. School administrators in Weirton have come across a similar situation in the past.

As drug use changes, it may be time to change policies and laws. “I know the board is in the process of reviewing their policy regarding drugs that are not controlled substances,” said Haught.

Also, he has been in contact with the West Virginia Pharmacy Board about putting some consequences in transactions of prescription drugs where no money is involved, as was the case at Magnolia.

Haught also intends to follow up with West Virginia Legislature to address circumstances such as this. He would like to see them create a specific crime of transferring a prescription drug or other harmful substance.

“Fortunately we have laws that address some of those things, like huffing gasoline, but I think because we haven’t experienced this, the legislature really hasn’t addressed it,” said Haught.