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After fentanyl overdoses, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD parents look for answers

On a piece of paper, white text on a red banner reads "We want you safe! One pill of Fentanyl can Kill."
Toluwani Osibamowo
An informational pamphlet on the dangers of fentanyl given to parents of Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District students at a workshop on Feb. 27, 2023.

Families in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District are reeling from the news of 10 fentanyl overdoses among the district's students, three of which were fatal.

After months of student overdose deaths and hospitalizations, concerned Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD parents and community members heard from district leaders Monday night at a workshop on the dangers of fentanyl.

Dozens of people were in attendance at both the English and Spanish sessions, as parents looked to school officials for a way to protect their children in the wake of the overdoses. There have been at least 10 overdoses among nine students in recent months. Three students have died and at least six others were hospitalized after taking pills laced with fentanyl, according to court documents.

District leaders say every campus in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD has a supply of naloxone, a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. In addition to chemical dependency counselors working with the district, parents were provided with a list of local substance abuse counselors in the area.

The district will also be offering counseling on Tuesdays and Thursdays for families dealing with substance abuse. The program is still in development, a district official said, and there is a waitlist.

The informational meeting at one point grew tense as one parent pressed district leaders on their response.

"Parents have been complaining that they have no access to any kind of rehabilitation, any kind of treatment programs, and that nothing has been done at all to reach out to the parents of those children were affected and those children who died, to gear them, guide them towards treatment," said Carlos Quintanilla, who attended with his son Nicolas. "Why isn't it being done?"

Quintanilla and his son also voiced concerns at the Spanish-language presentation, saying the district continually ignored claims from concerned parents such as Lilia Astudillo. NBC 5 reported her son died of a fentanyl overdose in January.

Assistant Superintendent Lance Hamlin said the district was doing its best.

"We're going to do everything we can every single day," Hamlin said. "And we're fighting this fight. I don't care what anybody else says."

The community is still reeling from the impact of fentanyl use on middle and high school students. Last week, three people were federally charged with dealing fentanyl to the Carrollton teens. According to court documents, Jason Villanueva, Luis Navarrete and Magaly Mejia Cano dealt Percocet and Oxycontin pills containing fentanyl to students and worked with juvenile dealers to give out the pills at R.L. Turner High School, and Dewitt Perry and Dan F. Long middle schools.

Since October, the district has given presentations on fentanyl in middle and high school classrooms, according to district leaders. But Monday night was an opportunity for parents to understand the dangers of drug use themselves.

"Fentanyl is cheap for dealers to put in pills," said Jo Gillen, the chief of social-emotional learning and postsecondary readiness for the district. "The problem is that it kills, and we're scared, and we're very serious."

Presenters walked parents through the various symptoms of fentanyl use, which include irregular breathing and cognitive decline.

Unlike other substances, the typical path to drug addiction no longer applies for fentanyl, district mental health coordinator Lyn Torres told those in attendance.

"We have completely thrown this away now because you start here, with trying it, straight to dependency," Torres said. "There's no in-between anymore because of the powerfulness of this drug."

Jorge Paz is the father of elementary school students in CFBISD. He and his wife attended the Spanish-language presentation.

The worried parent said it's important that the district continues to work with parents so they can stay informed about how to keep their children safe, no matter how young they are.

"There's no better method of training children than through their parents," Paz said. "It's a chain that continues through our children, grandchildren and future generations."

The district will host a second workshop on March 22 at 6 p.m. at the district's Educational Services Division Complex.

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.