About this series: Fentanyl is having a deadly impact on Malheur County, and one not well understood. The Enterprise reporting team of Mac Larsen, Isaac Wasserman and Cynthia Liu spent weeks learning about this threat. In this part, meet some of the people who deal daily with this risk to lives in our community. Share your comments and thoughts with an email to Editor Les Zaitz ([email protected]).
THE EDUCATOR: Lisa Longoria, principal, Ontario Middle School
It wasn’t something Lisa Longoria, principal of Ontario Middle School, thought she would ever have to train her teachers in.
Constricted pupils, low and raspy speech, lowered temperatures – signs that a student is using fentanyl.
Longoria started hearing about the drug in Malheur County in April, towards the end of the last school year. In May, she started hearing about it from her students.
“You’re always walking around, talking with students,” said Longoria. “And students will say, Mrs. Longoria, did you hear about this? Did you hear about that?”
Sometimes they shared about friends, family members, or other people they know using fentanyl.
“Internally, it breaks my heart,” she said. “But externally, to a student, it’s just regular conversation so I don’t get emotional. And so they’re not afraid to say this or that, and we can continue the conversation.”
For Longoria and other school employees, their top priority is to keep students safe. That includes making sure students know they always have someone to go to and always have someone ready to listen and help.
“It can be scary for them, just having that knowledge [of fentanyl],” said Longoria. “I’m grateful that they talk about it and know that it’s a safe place to talk about it. A priority for us is building relationships with kids so that they have at least one adult that they can go to who they trust.”
Longoria and other administrators also attended a district-wide fentanyl training in spring led by Ontario Police Chief Michael Iwai, which detailed how to recognize fentanyl use and how to handle it. Longoria planned to train the school’s faculty in the early days of the new school year.
“It doesn’t matter what school you’re at – public school, private school, charter school, it’s there,” said Longoria. “And we, the adults, cannot ignore it, cannot be naive or ignorant to it. It’s here, it’s in Ontario. And our staff will do everything they can to keep themselves and students safe.”
–Cynthia Liu, The Enterprise
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