A former Fairfax County, Va., school health aide is accused of taking elementary school students’ prescription drugs and replacing them with allergy pills.
Jennifer Carpenter worked at Greenbriar East Elementary School in Fairfax.
A grand jury on Tuesday indicted Carpenter on 11 counts, including unlawful possession of drugs, mislabeling drugs and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
An investigation began in late May when a family learned their daughter’s prescription had run out even though she had dropped off enough medication to last the rest of the school year.
In an interview with News4 in June, parent Brett Byrnes said he and his wife already suspected something strange was going on.
“Our kid was like, ‘Hey, I didn’t get my meds at school.’ So we would email the school health aide and she, you know, would assure us by email that she had received it,” Byrnes said.
When Byrnes raised concerns, the health department, which employs school health aides, began investigating.
“According to them, the school health aide admitted to giving at least our daughter, and presumably the other students, to the Claritin counter,” Byrnes said.
Carpenter was furloughed and then fired.
Police also launched an investigation, which led to the grand jury indictment.
A total of seven children reportedly received allergy pills instead of their prescription Adderall or Ritalin, which are drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
“…I think it’s some kind of betrayal. I had trusted this woman and I had faith that my son would be safe at school taking his medication as required, as prescribed,” a mother told News4 by phone.
Another family said their child’s behavior and school performance were so affected that they sought help from a doctor and special tutors.
Carpenter has not yet been arrested. She is expected in court on Thursday to face the 11 charges against her.
As a result of the investigation, new medication reporting forms will now be used in county schools and a public health nurse will conduct weekly medication audits of students, officials said.
But parents of affected children say more needs to be done to ensure the drug swap never happens again.
News4 could not reach Carpenter for comment.