Seven Pueblo High School students were rushed to the emergency room after taking Xanax. The prescription drug is one of the most addictive and can be very dangerous.
Tucson Police cars and ambulances converged on the campus more than a week ago. Inside sources say they're concerned that Pueblo parents have not been notified -- usually standard practice when student safety is a concern.
In an email to Pueblo staff, the principal Auggie Romero wrote "During 7th period, we apprehended eight students who were under the influence of Xanax. Unfortunately, the condition of 7 of the 8 students required that they be transported to UMC banner emergency room."
Experts say Xanax acts quickly in the body and can be a dangerous prescription drug when too much is taken, which could lead to seizures, breathing problems and coma.
John Leggio is director of The Mark Youth and Family Care Campus. "We have seen a tremendous increase in that especially in the last year. And I would say that 40 to 50 percent of our young clientele who come to treatment here have had problems with Xanax abuse and dependence."
20-year-old Leah Valencia was addicted to Xanax for 2 1/2 years -- prescribed to her to treat severe anxiety.
"After a while you build up a tolerance so you keep taking more and more." And when she tried to stop using Xanax. "The withdrawals are the worst thing I've ever been through. I've had scratches all up and down my legs. All on my arms. It feels like bugs are crawling in your skin. It just feels terrible. I couldn't stop shaking like having a seizure."
Principal Romero wrote in his email that staff confiscated "a large quality of that same drug." And there "may be one more unidentified student involved."
Sources say their concerned about the potential safety risk to other students. "When there's dependence or an addition to it then you're completely dependent upon it and your brain adjusts to it and if you take it away it'll kill you," said Leggio.
Cavazos: "What would you tell parents -- a warning to watch out for?"
Valencia: "Definitely watch out for them eating a lot and then falling asleep for hours. Or if they get really loopy and do strange things."
KGUN9 asked the district if whether parents were notified of the incident and we requested an interview with the interim superintendent Gabriel Trujillo.
We received this statement:
We decline any on camera interview at this time. In disciplinary incidents involving students, particularly when the number of students involved is small, we cannot discuss or confirm any details which might reveal confidential student information. Student information is federally protected under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
I responded that KGUN9 simply wanted to know if parents were notified -- no details needed to be given. Still no confirmation from the district.
I reached out to Tucson Police and was told the case is under investigation. One student was arrested and there could be more arrests.
I asked the TPD PIO if any officers told anyone in the district to withhold information from parents. I'm told no.
I also asked a top-level administrator who says it might not be a district violation to withhold the information, but it's certainly good practice to tell parents student safety is at risk.
Principal Romero is accused of changing several student grades without the teacher's consent -- a state law violation. The teacher, Yolanda Sotelo, came forward to KGUN9 with proof of her claims. Documents show Romero changed the grades of several students from an "F" to a "D". We've repeatedly asked the district for the outcome of the investigation into those claims, but our requests have been denied.