The mother of a 15-year-old girl who died of an overdose in a bathroom at Bernstein High School in Hollywood announced a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District Wednesday, alleging school officials knew there was a problem with drug use at the campus but took no action.
The LAUSD knew that Bernstein was a “haven” for drugs, attorney Michael Carrillo — on behalf of Elena Perez, the mother of 15-year-old Melanie Ramos — said during a downtown news conference.
“Kids would be buying and selling and using drugs in the bathroom at Bernstein and administrators on campus did nothing about it,” he said. “They knew, because there were six prior calls to Bernstein High School for potential drug overdoses in 2022 alone. Six prior. How do you not make any changes to protect kids?”
Melanie was found dead on a bathroom floor at the school on the night of Sept. 13, hours after the family claims that school officials realized she was missing. Authorities said the girl ingested a pill she thought was Percocet, but was believed to be laced with fentanyl.
In a statement, an LAUSD representative said, “Los Angeles Unified does not comment on pending or ongoing litigation. However, the safety and well-being of our students and employees remains our top priority.”
Following the girl’s death, police and district officials said that around 8 p.m. Sept. 13, a man went to Bernstein high, at 1309 N. Wilton Place, in search of his stepdaughter, who had not returned from school.
He found his stepdaughter suffering from apparent overdose symptoms, although she was still conscious and was able to tell him that one of her friends was in a girls’ bathroom, officials said. The man and a school employee found the other girl — Melanie Ramos — unresponsive in the bathroom, where she died.
Attorneys for Melanie’s mother said school officials notified her family early that afternoon that her daughter was missing.
“It took hours for them to find my niece,” Melanie’s aunt, Gladys Manriques, said during Wednesday’s news conference. “Where was the staff? Where (were) the teachers? Where was the administration? If it wasn’t for the other (girl’s) parent, then my niece wouldn’t have been found, until maybe until the next day. That’s why we want justice.”
Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Ramos and her friend purchased at least one pill they thought was the pain killer Percocet. The drug is believed to have been laced with the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl, he said.
Days later, police announced the arrest of a 15-year-old boy who allegedly sold the drug to the two students on the Bernstein campus, and a 16-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly peddling drugs to another student at nearby Lexington Park. Moore said both suspects were students at APEX Academy charter school, which is located on the campus of Bernstein High School.
The teen’s death also prompted the district to announce that all of its campuses would be supplied with doses of the anti-overdose medication Narcan. The district also announced plans for a sweeping anti-drug information campaign for students and parents to warn of the dangers of fentanyl.