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8 students taken to hospitals after eating ‘infused’ brownies, gummies at South Side high schools

The incidents happened about an hour apart at Fenger Academy High School in Roseland and Epic Academy in South Shore.

Five 16-year-old students at Fenger Academy High School in Roseland were hospitalized Wednesday after eating “infused” brownies and gummies.
Five 16-year-old students at Fenger Academy High School in Roseland were hospitalized Wednesday after eating “infused” brownies and gummies.
Jake Wittich/Sun-Times

Eight students from two South Side high schools were taken to hospitals Wednesday after they ate “infused” brownies and gummies.

The incidents happened about an hour apart at Fenger Academy High School in Roseland and Epic Academy in South Shore.

Paramedics were first called about 11:10 a.m. for students who ate brownies “that made them feel ill” at Epic Academy, 8255 S. Houston Ave., according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt.

A girl was exhibiting “strange behavior” and an investigation revealed that she had eaten baked goods she had bought along with two other kids, Chicago police said. All three were taken to South Shore hospital. Their conditions were unknown.

Officers weren’t able to recover any of the baked goods and couldn’t confirm whether they were infused with intoxicating substances, police said.

About 12:15 p.m., authorities were called for sick students at a lunchroom at Fenger Academy, 11220 S. Wallace St., Merritt said.

Three girls and two boys, all 16 years old, were taken to Roseland Community Hospital after eating gummies, Merritt said.

“We received reports that a small number of students ingested an unknown substance in the form of what appeared to be candy,” Fenger school officials said in a letter sent to families. “As a precaution, we transported them to the hospital to receive medical care.”

Police said the students had eaten “candy infused with an unknown substance,” and that their conditions had stabilized.

Epic Academy did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

One student at Fenger — a junior boy who asked not to be identified — said the treats were likely homemade marijuana edibles that a student brought to sell at school.

“I’ve heard students would do this outside of school, but never here,” he said. “I don’t get why they brought that to school.”

Two junior girls who also asked not to be identified said the students likely bought the edibles from a drug dealer.

“Drug dealers don’t care who they sell to,” one of them said. “They’re just trying to make money.”

The other girl said she’s heard of students taking edibles at other high schools, but she was still surprised it happened at Fenger.

“It was probably just some kids thinking this would make them cool. I hope they’re OK,” she said.

Fenger senior Kkhoa Campbell agreed: “I think it was some of the new students just trying to fit in, and now they’re sick.”

Campbell said this is the first time she’s heard about students taking edibles at Fenger, but she said it will probably happen more once recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.

“Schools should just make it a rule that edibles aren’t allowed [by] maybe banning the kinds of food they’re made with, like brownies or candy,” she said. “They’ll have to take away all snacks.”

James T. O’Donnell, an associate professor of pharmacology at Rush University Medical Center, said schools should expect to see more marijuana use among students once its recreational use is legal next year.

”It’s no different than the widespread availability of alcohol in that the more marijuana is available, the more children will use it,” O’Donnell said.

He said that edibles are especially dangerous among teenagers because they can’t control how strong the dosage will be.

O’Donnell added that children are more susceptible to the psychiatric effects of marijuana, putting them at a greater risk of the negative side effects — sickness, paranoia or delirium — that could lead to an emergency room visit.

He recommended that schools take similar measures to ban marijuana as they do alcohol.

”Police marijuana use like you do alcohol,” O’Donnell said. “Stronger education on the negative effects of marijuana use as an adolescent could also help.”

Contributing: Emmanuel Camarillo