WESTPORT — Three parents are suing the Westport school district, alleging that their 10-year-old children fell “seriously ill” and were later hospitalized after eating edible marijuana candy found on a school bus.
The parents, Elizabeth Carpenter and actors Marika and Scott Foley, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 3 against the Westport Board of Education, Board Chairman Lee Goldstein, Superintendent Thomas Scarice, bus company DATTCO, Inc., DATTCO President Donald Devivo, and the bus driver on duty during the incident, Berne Alphonse.
According to the complaint, the two Long Lots Elementary School students — referred to as K.F. and D.C. — were riding the bus home on Dec. 12, 2022, when they found a backpack left behind by a Staples High School student who had been on the DATTCO-owned bus earlier that afternoon. The parents said their children later told them they had opened the backpack, found the candy, and each ate one piece.
About an hour after the students arrived at the Foley family’s home, the lawsuit states, they complained of dizziness, stomach problems and general confusion. The family’s nanny then called the Foleys, who said they immediately realized the children were not well upon their arrival, according to the lawsuit.
“K.F.’s father saw D.C. as having lost all of the color from her face, her eyes sunken with dark circles under them, and the whites of her eyes as bloodshot; while he saw K.F. as looking sickly, lethargic, and as having trouble walking in a straight line or saying anything coherent,” the parents described.
The students were eventually admitted to Norwalk Hospital, where doctors administered a toxicology screening. The results came back positive for marijuana, the suit states.
In their complaint, the parents said they were disappointed by the school district’s response. They allege having numerous phone calls with Scarice after the incident, where they asked him to issue a statement explaining what happened. But according to the lawsuit, the superintendent said he could not disclose that the students ingested marijuana due to privacy concerns.
The parents also claimed that the school district refused to show them video footage of their children eating the edibles, until the Westport Police Department got a search warrant for the footage and abandoned backpack on Feb. 3. The Foleys and Carpenter could not be reached for additional comment.
“As with all pending litigation, we do not provide comment,” Scarice told CT Examiner on Thursday, declining to comment further.
But before the parents filed the lawsuit, Scarice did seemingly address the incident at a Dec. 19 Board of Education meeting. He explained to the attendees that some students had recently become ill after ingesting “what had appeared to be candy.”
Scarice said the district does its best to educate the community to prevent repeat incidents, but could not discuss the situation further due to privacy laws.
“Although I cannot comment and I will not comment on specific students because I have an obligation — legally, but also ethically — to maintain privacy, others can comment. I cannot, nor can any in the school system,” Scarice said. “But we can educate actively and make sure that we turn these unfortunate situations into experiences that we can hopefully make a positive.”
But at that board meeting, parent Michelle Rabinowitz said Scarice’s comments were not enough and that the community needed more information.
“No statement has been made. There’s been no education, no awareness and, more importantly, there’s been no transparency,” Rabinowitz said. “And still tonight — and I appreciate you actually saying the words — we’re still not saying what truly transpired. There’s people here that have been affected, and we all have children in this school system.”
In their lawsuit, the parents said the school board did not adhere to its policy to provide a “safe and orderly environment” for students. They also claimed that DATTCO violated its $35 million, five-year contract with the district, which required drivers to inspect buses before picking up students at each school.
DATTCO representatives did not respond to a Thursday request for comment.
In their complaint, the families said they have suffered severe emotional trauma and financial damages from the medical care the children received on Dec. 12. Specifically, the lawsuit claims both children were bullied by their peers and called “drug addicts” following rumors of the incident spreading. The parents claim such behavior could have been avoided had the district issued a message to parents explaining the situation.
The families are seeking an unspecified amount in damages for negligence, reckless misconduct, negligent infliction of emotional distress and statutory violation.