A former school health aide in Fairfax County, Virginia, is accused of taking elementary school students' prescription medications and replacing them with allergy pills.
Jennifer Carpenter worked at Greenbriar East Elementary School in Fairfax.
A grand jury indicted Carpenter on Tuesday on 11 charges, including unlawful drug possession, misbranding of drugs and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
An investigation began in late May when one family was told their daughter’s prescription had run out even though they’d dropped off enough of her medication to last the rest of the school year.
In an interview with News4 in June, parent Brett Byrnes said he and his wife were already suspicious that something strange was going on.
"Our child would tell us, ‘Hey, I didn’t get my medicine at school.’ So we would email the school health aide and she would, you know, assure us over email that she had gotten it," Byrnes said.
When Byrnes raised concerns, the health department, which employees school health aides, began to investigate.
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"According to them, the school health aide admitted to giving at least our daughter, and presumably the other students, over the counter Claritin," Byrnes said.
Carpenter was put on leave and later fired.
Police also launched an investigation, which led to the grand jury indictment.
In all, seven children were allegedly given 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 sort of a betrayal. I had trusted that woman and trusted my son would be safe in school getting his medication as he should, as it was prescribed,” one mom told News4 by phone.
Another family said their child’s behavior and academic performance was so impacted, they sought help from a doctor and special tutors.
Carpenter has not yet been arrested. She’s expected in court on Thursday to face the 11 charges against her.
In the wake of the investigation, new medication reporting forms will now be used at county schools and a public health nurse will conduct weekly audits of student medication, officials said.
But parents of the children impacted say more needs to be done to make sure medication swapping never happens again.
News4 has not been able to reach Carpenter for comment.