Arlington Heights school nurse on administrative leave amid probe into medicine swap

A nurse at an Arlington Heights elementary school has been placed on administrative leave amid allegations of switching out prescription medication intended for students.

An Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 administrator was made aware of concerns and documentation regarding the licensed registered nurse at Westgate Elementary on Monday night, Superintendent Lori Bein wrote in a letter to parents this week.

Bein said the district immediately reported the matter to the Arlington Heights Police Department and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Families of students who signed forms allowing for the dispensing of medications at school were asked to come to the school to verify the contents and quantity of medication maintained at the nurse’s office, Bein said.

“Like you, we are deeply disappointed to learn of this potential breach of trust,” Bein wrote. “The safety and well-being of our students, staff and school community is a top priority.”

The family of one student who may have been given the wrong medication has retained the prominent Chicago law firm Romanucci & Blandin. In a statement Thursday night, attorneys said the child has suffered health problems after blood tests showed signs of excessive aspirin intake and fentanyl.

“This situation is abhorrent, and we feel thoroughly betrayed by the violation of trust we placed in Westgate Elementary School and its staff, who were given the privilege of caring for our child,” the family said in a statement through their attorneys. “We are highly concerned for the health of our child and will not rest until we understand exactly what happened and see that the appropriate people are held accountable.”

Attorneys said the family’s name and their child’s identity, health history and exact medications are being withheld to protect the child’s privacy.

Arlington Heights Police Cmdr. Petar Milutinovic confirmed Friday an investigation is underway on the potential misuse of prescription medication that was intended for student use at Westgate.

He didn’t speculate on how many students could be affected. Detectives are working to put together a timeline and gathering statements and evidence, he said, as they believe there wasn’t a singular event but a pattern over the course of time.

Milutinovic declined to disclose which types of medications students received and which ones they were supposed to get.

The probe so far focuses only on the nurse at Westgate.

The attorneys, who are doing their own civil investigation, said they are looking into the school’s chain of possession of the medication, the process for keeping it secure, and the systems of oversight for anyone with access to it.

“Our clients are devastated by this new information and deeply concerned about the health of their child,” wrote attorney Daisy Ayllon. “That is by far their highest priority, but they are also fiercely committed to understanding exactly what went wrong at the school, who knew what and when, and knowing precisely what substitute substances their child had been given and for how long.”

A school district spokesman on Friday declined to answer additional questions and referred additional comment to police.

Bein wrote that district officials are cooperating fully with the police investigation and they will take appropriate disciplinary and/or legal action if warranted. She added that all district staff members are subject to extensive preemployment background checks.

District officials say they will be working with the Cook County Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education to review policies and protocols to ensure the oversight and integrity of medication maintenance and dispensing at all schools.

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