Parents of students at Pittsburgh Roosevelt PreK-5 searched their children's belongings Wednesday for heroin after school officials told them a 7-year-old kindergartner brought the drug to school and gave it to at least three of his classmates.
Police said the Knoxville boy told them he found the drug in his parents' bedroom and had been passing it out for a few days, unaware of what it was. School officials sent an email to parents after they discovered 18 stamp bags -- or doses -- in the boy's locker and bookbag, a discovery that brought drug-sniffing dogs to the Carrick elementary school and panic to some families.
"That little boy just put every child in that building in danger," said Shannon McAfee, whose 6-year-old daughter also attends kindergarten at Roosevelt. "He's still a baby, I feel bad for him. His mom on the other hand, she should know what he has in his bookbag."
School officials don't believe any students ingested the drug but encouraged parents to have their kids evaluated at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville if they notice unusual behavior.
"Have a conversation with your child," said assistant principal Anthony Pipkin, who also urged parents to call 911 if they turn up any of the bags, which are white and stamped with a picture of a rabbit coming out of a hat.
"The kids are calling it 'the magic ticket,' " city police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. "Some children have taken it home, and one parent has already returned heroin to the school."
School staff made the discovery about 1:45 p.m., just before dismissal, when the boy told a teacher he had cut his hand with a razor. That prompted principal Vincent Lewandowski to search the boy's locker, where he found the drug and more razors.
Police did not release the boy's name and made no arrests in the case on Wednesday, saying they are still investigating how the drug wound up in the school. A school spokeswoman said the boy faces discipline, and the county's Children, Youth and Families office is also probing the incident
"The safety of all children is the number one priority at Pittsburgh Roosevelt," Mr. Lewandowski wrote in a letter to parents that will be sent home today. "A full investigation was conducted with assistance from the Pittsburgh School Police, Pittsburgh police along with the building administrators."
Police dogs found no other drugs when they searched the school as a safety precaution, he said, adding that "the use and or possession of drugs by our students will not be tolerated. With the cooperation of students and families, we can ensure our school remains safe, orderly and drug free."
School officials contacted the families of three of the boy's classmates but were concerned that he may have given heroin to other students either in the school or on the bus.
Though class will resume as usual today, the discovery put Ms. McAfee and others in the neighborhood on edge.
"It's very shocking to the school community," Mr. Lewandowski said.
Most jarring to Barbara Winters, who will send her 5-year-old daughter to kindergarten there next year, was the boy's young age. She learned about the discovery when police and news crews swarmed the school, which is right across from her home.
"I'm just so stunned and so saddened and upset," she said. "The fact that people could use a child as their vehicle -- there's no innocence left."
The incident brought to mind the similar case of an 8-year-old boy who told police he brought 78 stamp bags of heroin to Wilkinsburg's Turner Elementary school in April 2010 after he found them "at my mommy's house." Police charged the third-grader's mother with child endangerment and corruption of minors, counts the district attorney's office later dismissed because it was too difficult to prove where the boy got the drugs.
Sadie Gurman: email@example.com or 412-263-1878.