Dec. 15, 2023 – Perched above a major highway in central Los Angeles sits an unassuming high school where students are all too familiar with the sound of ambulance sirens. This fall, the principal has called an ambulance about five times because of suspected student drug use.

We’re just extra cautious,” he says.

“Before, if the kid had a migraine, the kid had a headache, the kid looked a little tired. OK, let’s rest. Let’s get you going. Now, let’s check the blood pressure. If it’s high, let’s play the safe side. Let’s just call the ambulance.”

His school is part of a bold new experiment at Los Angeles Unified School District: Instead of the traditional, zero tolerance approach to student overdoses, LAUSD is piloting a focus on rehabilitation. But that effort comes with some stigma, and so we aren’t naming the principal or his school over district officials’ concerns that it become known as a “drug school.”

This pilot project is a response to a growing number of student opioid overdoses on LAUSD campuses. A student died in a school bathroom after a suspected fentanyl overdose in September 2022. After that, LAUSD began stocking naloxone in schools. Since then, the district says it has administered the opioid overdose reversal medicine 55 times.