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Lawsuit alleges North College Hill Elementary employee gave drug to wrong 2nd-grade student

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CINCINNATI - A civil lawsuit filed last week alleges a local school health aide gave a second-grade student a schedule II controlled substance the child was never prescribed to take.

A few North College Hill Elementary school employees said they believed the child was suffering from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and as a result, the school health aide gave the child five milligrams Focalin, a brand name for dexmethylphenidate, the lawsuit indicated.

"It's similar to Ritalin," said attorney Alison Warner, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the child's mother, Trina Jones.

The lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Jan. 4, alleged the medicine was prescribed to another student and the school was negligent in its handling of the situation on Jan. 5, 2011.

After taking the medicine, the child experienced "a rapid heartbeat, excessive blinking, involuntary movement of his limbs and labored breathing," according to the suit.

The child was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and stayed overnight for observation, according to the suit. 

But the child was never diagnosed for ADHD and was diagnosed by a family practitioner with abnormally large adenoid and tonsils, "which the doctor determined caused sleep depravation or sleep apnea, in turn causing what were perceived behavioral problems at school and his alleged inability to focus in class," the lawsuit contests.

On Jan. 5, 2011, the student was sent to a school official's office for not completing his work in class. That's when the health aide, Teresa McDonough, gave the child the medication, according to the suit.

The police incident report dated Jan. 6, 2011, stated McDonough was unable to distinguish between the child, a black male, and the black male to whom the medication was actually prescribed, the lawsuit claims.

"He had no prescription on file with school at the time of the incident," Warner said.

The school issued a written reprimand to McDonough, which said she violated six school board policies.

McDonough said at no time did the child "refuse to take the medicine or tell me he was not [the child with a prescription]," she said in a statement.

"I honestly thought I was giving [the child with a prescription] medicine. Both boys have very similar features, which also led me to this was [the child with a prescription]," McDonough said.

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