Last updated at 9:55 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, with additional information.
Five Brainerd High School students were taken to a hospital Wednesday morning after they ingested an undetermined substance and began showing "concerning physical symptoms," said Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy.
Authorities would not say what the symptoms were but said they were not in line with typical overdose symptoms, Roddy said. The conditions are not life-threatening and all five students were stable by Wednesday afternoon.
"Whether any children had an adverse reaction to taking medication, or some type of unknown substance, that's what we're working on," Roddy said. " When you're looking at prescription medication, or if you're looking at illicitly produced medication, the markings aren't always indicative of what it is."
Police received reports at about 10 a.m., and the school was placed on a soft lockdown to keep students in place as police began investigating the issue.
Dozens of emergency responders and law enforcement officers, including Chattanooga Police, Hamilton County Sheriff's office, officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration and even the Ringgold Police Department initially responded to the situation.
Multiple K-9 units were brought to do a sweep of halls, rooms and backpacks.
"You have to work through where they possibly came from, what's the source or how it was distributed," Roddy said.
Roeland Bencosme, a ninth-grader at Brainerd, said students were kept in third block for almost four hours.
"They had an email sent to the teachers. [My teacher] said there were drugs in the school somewhere, and I heard some police officers talk about how they found a bag of pills in the girls' bathroom," Roeland said.
He also said that the K-9 units searched students' backpacks and possessions.
"They had German shepherds. They would tap the backpack and the dog would sniff it and stuff, and they would walk out," he added.
Parents were called and notified of the lockdown, but were told they didn't need to be concerned, according to Roeland's mother, Sarah Bencosme. The message told parents no one was in immediate danger, she said.
"We did get a second phone call letting us know it was nothing in the school making kids sick. That made me think it was maybe something kids brought into the school. Somebody poisoned someone or it was drug related or something like that," Bencosme added.
Dismissal was postponed at the school, despite Hamilton County dismissing schools early due to weather and road conditions, while law enforcement was investigating, said Jill Levine, chief of the Opportunity Zone learning community that contains the high school.
She said that the school was in continuous communication with Superintendent Bryan Johnson while first responders were at the schools.
The district declined to release names, grades or other information about the students.
Staff writer Mark Pace contributed to this report.
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