Police Say Student Took 8 Pills in Suicide Attempt
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- Students leaving South San Francisco High School Friday afternoon seemed to be in good spirits, despite the drizzle from overcast skies. But their enthusiasm for the weekend belied a more somber situation: Ecstasy use is alive and well among some teens at the school.
It wasn't for fun, however, that a 16-year-old student there recently took an overdose of the drug. It was a suicide attempt involving eight pills -- the usual dose is one -- and it was sold to the girl by another student on campus, authorities said.
A synthetic and hallucinogenic stimulant, Ecstasy is common at weekend parties, students said Friday. One student, who requested anonymity, said it is even taken at school.
"It's getting popular, actually, around South San Francisco," a South City High tenth-grader said.
"A lot of people do it at parties. At people's houses, maybe a friend wants to spend the night and pop it. They get all together, and maybe they want to do a half or a whole pill or whatever. Certain people supply it at the school."
Another 15-year-old student said it was common knowledge among the students whom to go to in order to buy Ecstasy.
A friend of the overdose victim told The Times that the girl wasn't out for kicks when she downed eight pills.
"She explained to me that she was going through a lot," she said.
South San Francisco police arrested [name redacted] and a 17-year-old South City High girl on Tuesday for allegedly selling the Ecstasy at the school to the 16-year-old student, who authorities said was hospitalized after the overdose.
Superintendent Barbara Olds said the sale and use of illegal drugs has been a serious problem in the school district this year.
"We've had more expulsions this year for drugs than past years," she said.
A few months ago, she said, a group of El Camino High School students were caught sellingand using Ecstasy. Olds said the students selling the drug were expelled, but she wasn't sure what happened to the ones caught using it at a school dance.
Olds said this week's case is the first Ecstasy-related incident involving South City High students, and that the girl who allegedly sold the drug likely will be recommended for expulsion.
Olds and Principal Michael Coyne said the district has many measures in place to deter students from taking or selling drugs.
At the beginning of the school year, all parents receive a list of rules regarding drugs, and principals go to each class to talk with students about the punishment for drug possession.
In addition to having academic counselors, each high school has counselors who deal with "at-risk" behavior, and students are told of the dangers of drugs in their health curriculum.
Coyne said the school also has three campus control supervisors who run security, and a probation officer.
"My hope is this is a one-time occurrence and it won't happen again," he said.
An overdose of Ecstasy can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That can lead to damage to the liver and kidneys and cardiovascular failure, causing death.
The agency estimated in a 2005 survey that 4 percent of 10th-graders have tried the drug, down from 4.3 percent in 2004 and 5.4 percent in 2003.
After the overdose, police set up surveillance of [name redacted] home and arrested him and his alleged accomplice as they drove nearby. A probation search of [name redacted] car yielded seven baggies of marijuana, a scale, packing material and cash, according to police.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe called the overdose a suicide attempt and said the drug sale occurred on campus for $, or $ a pill.
He identified the 17-year-old suspected of making the sale as a South City High student and Soto's girlfriend, and he said the pair have sold Ecstasy to other students at the school.
[name redacted] is in custody at the San Mateo County Jail in Redwood City in lieu of $ bail and faces up to 15 years in prison.
He was charged Thursday with two counts of using a minor to sell drugs, which carries up to a nine-year sentence, as well as possession and sale of Ecstasy and marijuana, selling drugs near a school and driving with a suspended license.
The 17-year-old suspect was found with metal knuckles, a deadly weapon under state law, and booked at the San Mateo County Juvenile Correction Facility, according to police.
Wagstaffe declined to give further details about the girl's identity or the consequences she faces.
[name redacted], who Wagstaffe said is unemployed and lives with his mother, was convicted in March 2005 on a petty theft charge. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing June 1 on this week's charges.
source mapt usa