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Amid allegations of overdoses at Bakersfield-area high school, parents call for increased transparency

Volunteers offer free training and doses of naloxone outside North High School in Oildale.
Joshua Yeager
Volunteers offer free training and doses of overdose-reversal medication naloxone outside North High School in Oildale.

Last week, first responders administered the overdose-reversal medication Narcan to a student at a Bakersfield-area high school. That’s according to parents at the school, who are concerned about a possible uptick in youth overdoses.

North High School Principal Mark Balch acknowledged an increase in drug use on the Oildale campus during a Tuesday community meeting.

“We’ve seen a recent uptick in cases where kids are getting very sick, sometimes overdosing,” he said. “That’s why we’re here tonight.”

The principal said staff is ramping up awareness efforts and that Narcan will be readily available at the school. But he stopped short of confirming multiple parents’ allegations that students overdosed on campus, citing the minors’ medical privacy.

The district said five doses of Narcan have been administered across its 19 campuses so far this year. A spokesperson later clarified that figure does not include doses given by first responders.

The lack of clear information angered North High parent Danielle Ruth.

“We came from private school to here because [my daughter’s] father and I are both alumni. We love this school, and we’re really starting to rethink that decision,” she said.

Opioid overdoses are on the rise in Kern County. An estimated 270 people died after using opioids in 2021, while the number of youth overdoses has increased nearly three-fold since 2019, according to California Department of Public Health data.

Last week, a 15-year-old girl died at Bernstein High School in Hollywood, prompting the Los Angeles Unified School District to make Narcan available across all of its campuses.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.