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2 arrested after gummy bears brought to elementary school in fentanyl-laced bag: Authorities

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(AMHERST, Va.) — Two people have been arrested after a Virginia elementary school student brought gummy bears to school in a container that tested positive for fentanyl, sparking a medical emergency, authorities said.

The Amherst County Sheriff’s Office said seven children at Central Elementary School in Amherst “experienced a reaction to ingesting gummy bears” while at school on Tuesday. Five students were transported to area hospitals for treatment, officials said.

The bag the candy came in had a residue that tested positive for fentanyl, Amherst County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lt. Dallas Hill said during a press briefing Wednesday.

The Amherst County Sheriff’s Office had previously said the gummy bears tested positive for the drug. However, during Wednesday’s press briefing, Hill said the candy itself did not test positive for fentanyl but is being sent out for further testing.

The bag was brought from home by a student, according to the Amherst County Public Schools superintendent’s office.

“At this point we believe the bag containing the fentanyl got contaminated either at home or en route to school as the student was being transported by their caregiver to school,” Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent William Wells said during the press briefing on Wednesday. “There’s no indication of any other fentanyl at the school.”

A man and a woman have since been taken into custody in connection with the incident, Hill said.

Clifford Dugan was charged with contributing to the delinquency/abuse of a minor and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and is being held without bond, Hill said.

Nicole Sanders was charged with drug possession and contributing to delinquency/abuse of a minor and was being held on $2,500 bond, Hill said.

Additional charges are possible, Hill said.

Dugan and Sanders were scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon. It is unclear if they have an attorney.

Authorities did not disclose the relationship between the suspects and the student who brought the candy to school.

The sickened students — all of whom had consumed the gummy bears — exhibited symptoms including nausea, vomiting and signs of being lethargic, according to Bradley Beam, the public safety director for Amherst County Public Schools.

The overdose reversal drug Narcan was not administered because none of the students exhibited any signs that they had trouble breathing, Beam told reporters.

School administrators said they immediately notified emergency services of the incident. EMS transported two students for medical attention, and three students were driven by their parents, the sheriff’s office said.

All students were released from the hospital Tuesday and are healthy, Wells said. They are in the same fourth grade class, he said.

School officials initially said they believed the students had an allergic reaction. But through “trial and error,” authorities tested the residue in the bag for fentanyl to do their “due diligence” in determining what happened, Hill said.

Wells said the incident appears to be unintentional and that the student who brought the candy also consumed some of the gummy bears. The student’s sibling also brought a bag of gummy bears from home to the school, which did not test positive for fentanyl, he said.

Wells said the fentanyl was contained to the bag and there was no indication that the drug was on other surfaces in the building. The school was cleaned Wednesday morning.

He said they ask that students not bring in food to share, but said at lunch that is hard to monitor. If students do bring in any food to share, they ask that it come in the original store-bought container.

“This is not a school issue, this is a community issue,” he said. “We have these things in our community. The fentanyl didn’t just show up at school. The fentanyl came from somebody’s house. And so we need to wake up as a county and as a community and realize that these things are happening.”

The Amherst County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident.

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