From threatening police officers with gang violence to emergency trips to the hospital, illegal drug use has caused disruptions in the Mansfield school district’s high schools and even middle schools in the past 12 months.
Marijuana remains the most common drug seized in the school district, followed by Xanax, according to an analysis of all of the district’s drug- and alcohol-related police reports from the 2015-2016 school year.
This drug use among teenagers is nothing new, even in a suburb like Mansfield.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and say there isn’t any drug abuse in Mansfield,” said Thad Penkala, a public information officer with the Mansfield Police Department. “We have to be aware and try to keep our families from this type of thing. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing and realize the potential for drug abuse is there. I really think prevention starts at home.”
There can be lasting consequences beyond the suspensions and legal complications.
Dr. Jesse Gable, a licensed professional counselor who treats drug addictions, said chemical dependency can often stunt emotional growth. That includes marijuana, which can be habit forming and, though many try to say it’s not, Gable emphasizes that weed is a gateway drug.
“If someone starts at age 14 and they’re a daily user by the time they’re 20 years old and seeking to stop it, they’re truly about a 14- or 15-year-old,” he said. “Their emotional IQ is much lower. A lot of that is due to not using coping skills to deal with emotions at a young age. We see young men that are 25 years old with hypersensitivity and the emotional IQ of an adolescent.”
Dr. Stephanie Tipton, a family medicine specialist at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, said tobacco and alcohol abuse are more prevalent than marijuana or other drugs among the young adults that she treats locally.
“I haven’t seen a lot of drug abuse come through my clinic,” she said. “I have seen more teenagers recently that are admitting to using electronic cigarettes.”
Sometimes it comes up during the course of a physical examination when the parent is out of the room, she said.
“It ends up coming in in the conversation,” Tipton said. “If a person isn’t aware or willing to admit that they have an addiction, it isn’t easy to get them to admit.”
Dr. Prema Manjunath, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, said the young brain is sensitive to drugs and alcohol use.
“The important thing about teenagers is that their brain is not completely developed,” she said. “It’s a work in progress.”
She treats 13- to 18-year-olds who are having psychotic episodes as a result of using drugs. These can become worse over time, sparking paranoid delusions and even schizophrenia.
Prolonged marijuana use can lead to amotivation in teenagers, making them apathetic to the point where they lose interest in school. Couple that with repeated discipline at school from behavioral issues or being caught with marijuana at school and it gets compounded.
District counselors were not available for interview, but Holly McCanlies, the district’s director of counseling, responded via email to questions. She talked about drug and alcohol awareness programs such as Red Ribbon Week and the health class that all students must take to graduate. The class goes into detail about the dangers of addiction.
McCanlies said counselors are the first to provide help for students and families when there is a drug-related issue. The students are then referred to other facilities for treatment.
The district also has a website with pointers for parents to talk to their children about these and other difficult subjects.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest incidents among the dozens that occurred at the various Mansfield school district campuses last school year.
One of the more serious incidents involved white pills at Lake Ridge High School on Feb. 25. Two students became sick after taking a white pill and one of them had to be transported to Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. Before getting in the ambulance, the student told the principal that he’d received the pills from another student at the school.
When police made contact with the student, who was not identified in the report, he resisted the attempted pat down and started screaming, “They’re going to kill me. This is police brutality.” He was handcuffed and refused to walk, forcing officers to drag him. His screaming caused a disruption in the school. Police later found marijuana on him.
Another violent incident happened Sept. 2, 2015, at Timberview High School when a student refused to allow officers to search his backpack. Administrators had been tipped off that the student had marijuana on him. The student became belligerent and tried to force his way past the officers, who had contained him in an office.
The student was handcuffed and continued his rant, challenging the officer to a fight. He told the officers he was part of a gang, a Crip, and that his friends would retaliate.
The straps on the backpack had to be cut off so police could search his backpack where they found a medicine bottle containing marijuana. The student was arrested.
At Summit High School, a girl fell asleep in class and was acting lethargic with slurred speech. They found five Xanax bars, a Newport cigarette, razor blade head and small plastic baggy. She was transported via ambulance to Methodist Mansfield. Two more students were found with the same symptoms and were also transported. A fourth student was also implicated but didn’t show any signs and was released.
Another Xanax incident at Summit High School started when a student left class without permission. When officers approached him, he yelled, “I’m not going back to jail!” Police searched his hoodie and found Xanax.
At Mansfield High School, a female was seen snorting an unknown substance after crushing it. No usable amount of marijuana was found but the student was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia.
At Legacy High School, police smelled marijuana coming from the women’s restroom and then watched surveillance footage of a student leaving the bathroom and spraying herself. The student was identified in the cafeteria and found to be in possession of marijuana and a clear plastic bong.
At Ben Barber Innovation Academy, students were seen going toward the ATM but changed direction quickly when officers started approaching them. They were found with a brown cigar filled with marijuana and a lighter.
At Phoenix Academy, administrators broke up a drug exchange in the parking lot at lunch time, seizing a diamond grind with marijuana inside.
Linda Jobe Middle School has had its share of drug problems, too, with several occurring on the same day in December.
One student was selling Hydrocodone pills that he said he purchased off Instagram for $50. He was hoping to sell the pills to make money. Another student met someone at Lifetime Fitness who offered to sell him marijuana. He stole $30 out of his mother’s wallet in the car and purchased it. He was found with 6.8 grams at school. He planned to use the money to buy a drone. Another student was found with a bag full of codeine pills.
At Worley Middle School, a student was found with a clear plastic bag with .5 grams of marijuana hidden in his sock. The other sock had a blue lighter.
At T.A. Howard Middle School, a student was acting out of character and he said he felt like he was on a roller coaster. He was found with a 7-Up bottle that tested positive for Promethazine.