LatinaLista — The emails started coming this past Monday: “Latino kids being targeted. Please help. Get involved.”
That was the gist of a city-wide campaign in Dallas spearheaded by Latino community leaders when they heard the news of a 15-year-old Latino student, Oscar Gutierrez, who died last weekend after a long struggle with drug use.
The police say he died from snorting a concoction of heroin and Tylenol PM known to kids as “cheese,” — he was the fourth death in the past year in Dallas attributed to the deadly mixture.
Cheese is made by crushing heroin and Tylenol PM together and typically folded into notebook paper. A quarter-gram sells for $5 and a single hit usually sells for $2 — very affordable for kids with lunch money.
Heroin cut with Tylenol PM makes a powder drug dealers call “cheese.”
(Source: Dallas Independent School District)
From Monday through Friday, momentum grew within the Latino community as news slowly trickled out from the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) that there were 200 criminal cases against mostly Hispanic students, at five Hispanic-dominant middle schools and high schools, who had been caught with cheese.
Concerned Latino parents met at local restaurants to learn about the drug, Hispanic community leaders appeared on radio morning shows at urban music stations popular with kids to talk about it — and parents and community leaders were getting fed up that their children’s own school district seem to be dragging their feet to do anything.
As one mother wrote on a Dallas Hispanic community listserve:
My daughter is now in a rehab clinic because of this drug (cheese). One of her friends died two weeks ago, and yet, nobody is doing anything about it. They are getting kicked out of school but nobody is doing anything to attack the root. I understand it was her choice, and that is what we are working at but the drugs are “ridiculously” available everywhere, especially inside the schools, where they are supposed to be studying.
On Spanish-language news, the spokesperson for DISD, Celso Martinez, said that DISD was in the business of educating students, not treating drug use. They said the most the school district could do was refer students to treatment centers.
No one asked for the school district to act as treatment centers, but to get involved and to care about the welfare of their students.
According to local drug treatment centers, it was about 18 months ago that they first started seeing kids coming in for treatment for snorting cheese.
In April 2006, a Dallas television station first reported on the drug and its popularity among young kids.
So, the question remains to be asked: why didn’t school district officials move before being forced by the community?
It wasn’t until the Latino community leaders started making a lot more ruido (noise) that it attracted the attention of U.S. Texas Senator John Cornyn who brought the subject up in a meeting he had come into Dallas for with North Texas law enforcement officers about sharing ideas on gang initiatives.
As a result of the Latino community’s efforts this week, it’s come to light that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is now sharing intelligence about the local heroin trade and drug testing equipment with Dallas schools’ police investigators.
And the school district has decided this week to set up a bilingual drug hotline next Monday.
And though some would like to think the big drug cartels of Mexico are orchestrating this addiction crisis, DEA agents say thre is no evidence of that. What is painfully clear is that cheese is being made by Latino students, some gang members, and being sold to their homeboys and homegirls.
It’s been reported that some of the student dealers threaten to beat up kids if they don’t try it. Talk about extreme bullies.
It may have reached epidemic proportions in Dallas now, but chances are other Latino students across the nation may either already have cheese on their campuses or will soon.
Since it’s mostly a Latino-generated and distributed drug, it’s an issue that Latino parents and community leaders must educate ourselves about and remain vigilant.
Kids addicted to cheese:
Are sleepy and have trouble waking up.
They have personality shifts, possible aggressive behavior or their grades are dropping.
They also could have flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting and anxiety from withdrawl.
The symptoms could mimic a host of different things, and kids will never be straight when asked if they’re taking/snorting anything.
So, the job becomes especially harder.
But it’s worth it, if mijo/mija are going to have any kind of future at all.