FCPD investigates health assistant who allegedly stole medicine from students | Fairfax County

Parent alleges school district ‘covers up’ crimes

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On May 27, local father Brett Byrnes, a former military officer, walked through the green doors of Gate 1 of his second-grade daughter’s elementary school, Greenbriar East. The school nurse had just called to say she was out of her second-grade daughter’s dose of Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat ADHD or attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.

What the Byrnes discovered was every parent’s nightmare: Perhaps for months, school health aide Jennifer Carpenter allegedly stole their daughter’s Adderall – a stimulant – and gave her Claritin , an over-the-counter drug used for allergies. Their daughter was not alone: ​​Under the watchful eye of school officials in their neighborhood, whose mascot is the Roadrunner, Carpenter allegedly stole medicine from six other children.

In a June 7 letter to the “parents” of the seven affected children, Robin Wallin, director of the Fairfax County Health Department’s School Health Division, said the FCPD and Community Protective Services childhood “have active drug diversion investigations that affected your student.”

In response to a request for public records, the FCPD said it opened an investigation, case number 2022-1470199, on May 27 regarding “embezzlement.” Under ‘General Properties Reported Stolen’, the police say ‘Medicine’.

But two weeks later, Fairfax County Public Schools has yet to notify school or school district parents of the alleged crime. “It is really criminal that medicines were stolen from children. It’s a systemic problem,” Byrnes said.

“They can’t even find the audit documentation,” said the mother of a 10-year-old fourth grader whose Ritalin, also used for ADHD, was allegedly stolen. “It looks like the school is covering up for their failures.”

In a statement to the Fairfax Times, Wallin confirmed the scandal saying: ‘It came to the attention of the Department of Health on Friday May 27 that there was an anomaly in a medication for a student at the school Greenbriar East Elementary. The Ministry of Health reacted immediately and opened an internal investigation. A report was made to the Fairfax County Police Department that evening and the investigation is ongoing. The Department of Health notified the parents and guardians of the seven affected students immediately after determining the extent of the problem. The employee was placed on administrative leave as the Department of Health decided to terminate his employment with the county.

This “gap” is significant because it reflects the growing frustration of parents trying to defend the safety of their children, only to be fired, demonized as engaging in “domestic terrorism” and even handcuffed, from Uvalde, Texas, to Loudun County. , Go.

When asked why the school system did not notify parents of the school or school district, FCPS spokeswoman Helen Lloyd said, “As these staff are hired by FCHD, you should direct your questions to them.” Carpenter received an out of office (as of 2019) reply to his school’s official email address. She could not be reached at the various phone numbers listed in the area for her name.

At 6 p.m. on May 31, the parents of the second-grader received a letter from Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Fairfax County Health Director, informing them that health department officials had learned that there was a “drug anomaly” because a health department employee had “diverted” “student-owned” drugs.

Then a shock, “…we have reason to believe that the employee may have given your child an over-the-counter generic on occasion [cq] antihistamine instead of his prescribed medication.

The hectic second-grade school year was now making sense. Two weeks earlier, her mother had told the principal that she was considering holding their daughter back because she was falling behind in school.

In September 2021, Carpenter had worked out a protocol with the Byrnes to get their daughter, 7, her medication around 11:40 a.m. Sometime on Oct. 1, 2021, at 9:14 a.m., Carpenter reassured the sophomore. mother that she had her dose of medicine, emailing her: “Yes, she took it. It was a chaotic change among the kids with class changes and promotions. I had to fish her out, so to speak. I’ll catch up with her at 11:40!

On October 4, 2021, at 11:55 a.m., Carpenter emailed the mom with the subject line, “Hello! 11:41 am, average time! »

“It’s awful – and it’s not surprising,” said Callie Oettinger, editor-in-chief of SpecialEducationAction.com and parent of students in FCPS. “Since denying access to medicine is like denying access to education, this is a violation of civil rights.”

“The lesson from this parenting nightmare is that vigilance matters,” said the Fairfax County Parents Association. “The school system needs to listen to parents, not ignore them, when they sound the alarm about serious issues. The school should alert parents when such situations occur.

Since learning the shocking news, the Byrnes have gone to school every day to give their daughter her medication. She is doing much better in school.

Asra Nomani is a senior researcher at the Independent Women’s Network, which is dedicated to helping parents across the country advocate for children. A former Wall Street Journal reporter, she can be reached at asra@asranomani.com.


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