Mom of Girl, 15, Who Fatally Overdosed at School Sues District

2 teen boys were arrested in the case earlier this year
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2022 9:54 AM CDT
Updated Dec 15, 2022 2:38 AM CST
4 Students Overdose on Same Day—1 Fatally
An exterior view of Bernstein High School, Wednesday, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
UPDATE Dec 15, 2022 2:38 AM CST

The mother of a 15-year-old girl who died of a suspected fentanyl overdose at her Hollywood high school in September is suing the Los Angeles school district of which the school is a part. Elena Perez alleges that officials knew about "rampant drug sales" at Helen Bernstein High School but took no actions to improve safety, even after other overdoses on campus, the AP reports. Her daughter, Melanie Ramos, and a classmate reportedly purchased what they believed to be a painkiller off campus, took it on campus, and lost consciousness. Police believe the pills were laced with fentanyl.

Sep 16, 2022 9:54 AM CDT

A 15-year-old girl bought pills at her high school before dying in a campus bathroom on Tuesday. But "this was not an overdose. This was murder," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted Thursday after police made arrests in connection with the overdose death and the overdoses of three other students who survived. A 15-year-old male student at Academic Performance Excellence Academy, an independent charter school that shares a campus with Bernstein High School in Hollywood, is to be charged with manslaughter, per CBS News. He's accused of selling fentanyl-laced pills to Bernstein's Melanie Ramos and her 15-year-old friend, who is hospitalized.

Melanie and her friend reportedly believed they were buying Percocet Tuesday afternoon. "It's common practice today in the illicit pill market to use fentanyl to spike or enhance a drug," Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Thursday, per KTLA. They later crushed and snorted the pills in a bathroom at Bernstein, per CBS. Police were called to the school after 8pm Tuesday following a report from a man who claimed to have found his stepdaughter, who had not come home from school, in a courtyard on the campus, said police Lt. John Radke. He said the girl, who'd awoken after hours in the bathroom, told him Melanie was still there; she was found and pronounced dead.

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The Los Angeles Fire Department had responded earlier Tuesday to calls about two teens suffering possible overdoses near Lexington Park, a few blocks from Bernstein and other schools. One of the victims is described as a 17-year-old student at Hollywood High, per CBS. A 16-year-old male student of Apex Academy—who was known to the 15-year-old student arrested—was arrested and is accused of selling the same fentanyl-laced pills to the students at the park. He could face drug-related charges, said Moore. The chief added police were working with the Drug Enforcement Agency to find those who gave the pills to the boys. "There is a drug organization behind this," he said, per KTLA. "The trail of this does not end here." (More overdose stories.)

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