‘I think we were failed’: Family mourns girl who died of possible fentanyl overdose at Hollywood school

Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old student at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, loved to travel and dreamed of one day joining the army.

Her life was cut short Tuesday night by a suspected fentanyl overdose after she and another student bought what they believed to be Percocet pills from a 15-year-old boy on campus.

Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old student at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, died of a suspected fentanyl overdose.

Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old student at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, died of a suspected fentanyl overdose.

(Johann Herman)

Melanie was found unresponsive in a bathroom by her friend’s stepfather and a school worker around 9 p.m. when the campus was open for volleyball and soccer games, the Los Angeles Police Department said. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. Her friend also overdosed and was hospitalized.

“She was a very loving child,” said Xochitl Quintero, 41, Melanie’s aunt. “She had a great relationship with her two sisters. Her best friend was her younger sister, who took her loss very hard.”

Gladys Manriques, 36, a family member of Melanie, said they were upset that the school system failed to protect students – and she believes officials were aware of drug problems on campus.

“I have spoken to parents whose children have overdosed at school and they have tried to work this out with the school but unfortunately nothing has been done and our Melanie has to be a role model,” she said.

“I think we failed in many ways,” Manriques said. “This pill is poison. I call it the devil pill and it will continue unless you start breaking the chain.

School officials said they were aware of some students’ drug problems and had been actively addressing the problem. And they say they will do a lot more to raise student and parent awareness and provide better safety.

Melanie, her family said, was a “good kid” who was happy and “full of life.” As far as they knew, Melanie didn’t struggle with drug use. They believe she was pressured into trying drugs.

People enter the Helen Bernstein School

Helen Bernstein High School officials said they were aware of some students’ drug problems and had been actively addressing the problem.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

“They say if a kid is struggling in any way. They shut themselves out and don’t want to be social, even with family members, but that wasn’t the case here,” Manriques said. “She was very respectful and made sure to let her mother know where she was at all times.”

On Friday, students and teachers mourned Melanie’s death and erected a memorial on the school’s front steps, where people left flowers, candles, letters and a bag of fudge.

“It was sad,” said ninth grader Chey Payne. “Some of our teachers are sad, others are just trying to get over it. I know many students are saddened by this.”

Chey said drugs were a problem in middle school; But now that she’s in high school, she’s heard about more student overdoses.

“You have to learn to say no,” she says. “You have to be careful because the world is a dangerous place.”

A 15-year-old boy – a student at Apex Academy, an independent charter school on the Bernstein campus – was arrested Thursday on suspicion of manslaughter and accused of selling the pills to Melanie and her friend.

Officials are speaking out about the death of Melanie Ramos at Helen Bernstein High School.

LA Unified Supt. Alberto Carvalho, center, speaks about the death of Melanie Ramos at Helen Bernstein High School.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

A 16-year-old Apex student has been arrested on suspicion of selling narcotics for allegedly selling pills in nearby Lexington Park on Tuesday to a third grader, a 17-year-old boy at Hollywood High School. The identities of the arrested boys have not been released as they are minors.

Police believe there was a fourth student who overdosed at the park, but her identity is unknown.

Melanie’s death has prompted the Los Angeles Unified School District, city leaders and law enforcement officials to address the overdoses plaguing high schools across the state.

LAPD Capt. Lillian Carranza, who oversees the Gang and Narcotics Division, said the exact composition of the pills involved in Melanie’s death is still being analyzed, but authorities believe they almost certainly contained fentanyl — as did the overwhelming number of those seized pills from the department.

In the past three weeks, at least six Los Angeles Unified students, including Tuesday’s three, have been involved in narcotics use, “some resulting in an overdose, some resulting in students being taken to a medical facility, others being immediately discharged.” to the parents,” LA Unified Supt. said Alberto Carvalho.

Manriques said her family has many unanswered questions about Melanie’s death and wants to know why school police, staff and security did not patrol the hallways or lock down the bathrooms during extracurricular activities.

When Melanie and her friend didn’t return from school on Tuesday, Melanie’s mother reported them missing and filed a police report, according to Melanie’s family. The other girl’s stepfather was also looking for his daughter and went to school.

The gate of a park

A 16-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of selling pills to a Hollywood High School student in nearby Lexington Park on Tuesday.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Police returned to Melanie’s mother’s home around 2 a.m. to inform her of her daughter’s death.

“We are all devastated,” Manriques said. “How do you tell a 7-year-old that her sister won’t come home?”

She said family members helped Melanie’s mother break the news of her death to the girl’s sister.

“Hearing her crying for almost an hour is really painful,” Manriques said.

The family set up a GoFundMe page to help with daily living expenses while they mourn. As of Friday afternoon, nearly $6,000 of their $10,000 goal had been raised.

Melanie’s family said they were relieved to hear of the arrests but they still want more people to be held accountable. They also hope the district will do more Educate parents and students about the dangers of drug use.

“I always tell parents to take five minutes out of their busy day to talk to their kids. Be careful who they hang out with,” Manriques said. “The school district should educate the children and the parents. If you can’t hold a meeting, send out flyers or use whatever app you use at your school.

“Our message to every kid out there is, if you’re thinking of taking this medication or any medication that someone or you have gotten your hands on, remember our Melanie,” she said. “Think of the pain we are going through and the pain you can bring to your family.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-16/this-pill-is-poison-family-mourns-girl-who-died-of-possible-fentanyl-overdose-at-hollywood-school ‘I think we were failed’: Family mourns girl who died of possible fentanyl overdose at Hollywood school

Alley Einstein

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