HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Hays County Sheriff’s Office said a 15-year-old died from a suspected fentanyl poisoning Monday.
Hays CISD confirmed with KXAN that it was one of their students.
Hays County Deputy Anthony Hipolito said the sheriff’s office got a call about a juvenile possibly deceased. When they arrived with EMS, they found the teen dead.
Deputy Hipolito said it was suspected fentanyl poisoning, but they are still waiting to get the toxicology report back.
“If it does turn out to be a fentanyl poisoning that resulted in death, that investigation will be worked backward, essentially to try to figure out where this juvenile got the suspected fentanyl from,” said Hipolito.
Hipolito said sadly, the sheriff’s office is no stranger to fentanyl poisonings.
“It’s touching every portion of Hays County. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. It’s killing us at a rapid rate,” Hipolito said. “We’re tired of having to see lifeless teenagers or lifeless adults because of a poisoning from fentanyl.”
The district’s email to parents
In an email sent to parents, Hays CISD Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright said, “I am saddened to report that earlier this week, we learned that one of our 15-year-old students died at home. Our counselors and staff have been working behind the scenes to provide support services for this student’s friends and teachers. Today, we learned from the Hays County Sheriff’s Office that the student’s death is formally being investigated as a possible fentanyl overdose.”
The email continued to say, “The loss of such a young person is always a tragedy, regardless of cause, and we are heartbroken. Though we do not know the cause of death for this student and won’t know it until law enforcement completes its investigation, I can tell you that it is our continuing worst fear – to lose another student from a danger that remains present in our district and across the country. We have previously lost six students to this evil since the summer of 2022 – each a beautiful and precious life taken much too soon.”
The district said it would continue its efforts to speak about the fentanyl threat.
The loss of six students
In May, Hays CISD said in an email to parents that six students have died due to suspected fentanyl overdoses since summer 2022.
Last school year, the district launched its fighting fentanyl campaign in response to the deaths. It created a series of public service announcement videos to help students and parents understand the dangers of this drug.
One of the videos showed the moments a teenage boy overdosed on fentanyl outside of a Hays CISD campus. It was caught on surveillance footage.
A mother’s mission
Janel Rodriguez is one of the Hays CISD parents who lost a child to fentanyl.
Since her son Noah passed away in August 2022, she’s made it her mission to educate students and parents about the drug.
Rodriguez started an organization called Forever 15 Project. On her website, Rodriguez said she has her personal phone number and email address listed for students to directly get in touch with her.
“I get a lot of emails of kids wanting help. I’m there to help, you know, contacting their parents. I’ve also been in contact with a clinic in Travis County to provide suboxone treatment for teenagers,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve sent a few children there for help and adults.”
She goes across the state with the sheriff’s office to speak in front of school districts.
“We’re still getting calls from all over the country. There’s definitely a need for more presentations, more awareness,” Rodriguez said.
Along with that, she and her husband took their fight against fentanyl to the nation’s capital. Her husband, Brandon Dunn, gave an emotional testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee.
Rodriguez said hearing the news about the most recent suspected fentanyl poisoning was heartbreaking.
“It really bothered me. I cried,” Rodriguez said. “It angered me, to be honest. I was angry, upset, just so many emotions.”
With the school year in full swing, Rodriguez said she’s motivated to continue her work. She hopes to prevent one more chair in class from being left empty.
“Hays County is where I’m from, this is my town, you know, and I want to change what we’re known for right now,” Rodriguez said.