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Beverly Hills Unified School District Acts On Fentanyl Crisis

Juli Shamash speaking on Oct. 11

At its Oct. 12 meeting, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education discussed drug misuse after several recent teen fentanyl overdoses, including that of 17-year-old Cade Kitchen from El Camino Real Charter High School and 15-year-old Melanie Ramos from Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood. As part of the BHUSD Community Spotlight, the board invited Juli Shamash to speak for national Substance Abuse Prevention Month. After losing her teenage son Tyler to fentanyl in October of 2018, Shamash became an advocate for drug overdose and poisoning prevention. Shamash has been the driving force behind legislation SB 864, Tyler’s Law, which requires every hospital in California to test for fentanyl with a standard five panel urine drug test. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Aug. 22, and it will go into effect on Jan. 1 of 2023.

“I never thought that Tyler would die of an overdose,” Shamash said. “He was so smart. He knew everything about drugs, but fentanyl has changed everything.” Shamash will return at the end of October to share her story with BHUSD ninth graders. “If you cannot say with 100% certainty that your child will never try one drug one time, you cannot be sure that they’re safe from fentanyl,” she added.

Ali Norman-Franks, the wellness counselor at the high school, also spoke about the Norman Aid substance misuse prevention campaign happening in October. “This month, we’ll be sharing post stories about substance misuse and managing peer pressure, as we know that’s a problem for our students,” Norman-Franks said.

In his superintendent report, Dr. Michael Bregy shared that while the opioid overdose treatment Narcan has become increasingly difficult to find, all school sites are stocked. Administrators underwent training this week on how to administer the treatment, which comes in a nasal spray typically.

“The blessing and curse of working with children is oftentimes they act before they think,” Dr. Bregy said. “And so that’s our job, is to reverse that, and to start providing skills so that in any situation, a student has been educated enough to think about what they’re doing before they do it. This is one of those instances where it’s so quick, that it could be too late.”

In a 4-1 vote, the board also voted to disband the Facilities and Construction Committee since the construction program has been restructured. Rachelle Marcus, who initially established the committee, was the sole no vote.

“Over a year ago I formed this committee to provide oversight and transparency in the construction program,” Marcus said. “I’m not yet comfortable that eliminating this committee is going to do what it’s supposed to do.”

At its next board meeting, the board invited parents to speak about the unrest in Iran. “

“It affects all of us, but it’s affecting directly many members of our community and their families,” President Mary Wells said. “I just want to say that I personally stand with the women in Iran who are fighting for human rights.”

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