David Cittadino Has Seen His Fair Share Of Heartbreak, So Now He Has Put The Onus On Eighth Grade Families

OLD BRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A school superintendent in Middlesex County, New Jersey is taking drastic actions to fight the opioid epidemic.

He says if parents want to see their middle school children graduate, a family member must attend a seminar about the drugs, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Tuesday.

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The opioid problem hit too close to home on Monday night for Old Bridge Township Public Schools superintendent David Cittadino.

“A parent of one of our elementary students passed away to opioid addiction. Abuse. An overdose,” Cittadino said Tuesday. “At the end of the day a first grade little girl is going to go home to a house that doesn’t have a mother. And you know I’m going to say ‘What could we have done better?'”

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Cittadino has attended the funerals or wakes of at least half a dozen of his former students who’ve died from overdoses, and it’s because of those fatal consequences that he decided to take aggressive action to educate families.

“When you see the parents, they’re at a loss. You’re heartbroken. Many of them have tried everything,” Cittadino said.

Some doctors consider oxycodone and other prescription opioids to be a gateway drug to heroin. (Credit: CBS2)

Cittadino sent a letter home with his eighth grade students, telling parents and guardians the only way to get tickets to their child’s graduation is if a family representative attends a one-hour seminar about opioid use and addiction.

“It helps them to find signs and signals that they may not have already known,” Cittadino said.

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There will be three nights in April to choose from, but some parents still complained about the inconvenience.

“You shouldn’t be obligated to attend any seminar that needs to happen in order for the parent or guardian, her family to attend a graduation,” parent Jairo Collantes said.

Others praise Cittadino for being proactive.

“I don’t, unfortunately. I don’t know the signs. So I think it’s a great thing that they’re having the meeting,” Antonella Coco said.

“It’s great. The more information you can get out to the families, the better it is for everyone,” another parent added.

Cittadino said he’s hosted optional seminars about the dangers of opioids in the past, but they were poorly attended. He’s hoping families see this requirement as a benefit.

“Because the more people we educate, the more impact it’s going to have. It saves lives in our community,” he said.

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Cittadino said that’s all he really cares about.