David Hussey, executive director at El Camino Real Charter High School, went on the school public address system Tuesday morning and made an announcement that every school administrator dreads: the death of a student. Then he sent a letter to parents informing them that a 17-year-old senior had died of a fentanyl overdose.
Cade Kitchen, a former baseball player and top student, is the latest teenager to die from a fentanyl overdose.
“As a family, they don’t want this to happen to any other student or person,” Hussey said Friday.
The Los Angeles Police Department announced last month that at least seven teenagers overdosed last month from pills possibly containing fentanyl.
Hussey, a former soccer coach at the Woodland Hills school, has known the Kitchen family for years. Cade Kitchen’s older brother, Cole, was a standout pitcher for El Camino Real and is at Santa Clara University playing baseball. A sister, Marlee, attends UCLA.
Cade played baseball as a freshman and sophomore, then gave up the sport to focus on other interests, baseball coach Josh Lienhard said. He took up the guitar. The news of his death has hit the team hard.
“A lot of players were pretty tight with him,” Lienhard said. “It was a tough one.”
The school sent out a message to parents after Hussey addressed students:
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that one of our 17-year-old students passed away last night. This tragic incident was the result of a fatal fentanyl overdose. As a father and a parent, I cannot fathom the loss of a child. My heart breaks to know that an El Camino student will not be with us tomorrow. On behalf of the El Camino Real community, our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time. After the death of a friend, young people need more support and attention than usual from their parents and other adults. This is an especially difficult and emotional time for those who knew the student, the student’s family or for students who have experienced recent trauma in their lives.”
Hussey said El Camino Real has made counselors available to students. Teachers also will be addressing the dangers of fentanyl.
“This is bigger than a school,” Hussey said. “We need more people involved, law enforcement, politicians, media in bringing awareness in educating people.”
Lienhard, who has children ages 6 and 11, said parents should have conversations with their kids, especially with Halloween coming up.
“More important to be safe,” he said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.