WESLEY CHAPEL — A clinic assistant at New River Elementary School was arrested Friday amid accusations that she took prescription pills that were kept in the clinic for students, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Kimberly Dawn Smith, 39, of 38802 Centennial Road, Dade City, was being booked into the Land O’ Lakes Jail on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, said Melanie Snow, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
Snow said the pills Smith is accused of taking were either Ritalin or Ritalin-type medication, which is typically used for attention-deficit disorder. Smith’s arrest report said she admitted to taking about 25 prescription pills that belonged to students and used them herself.
This wasn’t the first time Smith has been accused of gaining access to prescription medication through illicit means. In June, the state Board of Nursing suspended her nursing license because of claims that she called in fake prescriptions to pharmacies while she was working for a pediatricians’ office more than two years ago.
The alleged incident at New River Elementary came to light Wednesday when the parents of one student came to school to retrieve a pill bottle because they were going to stop giving the child the medication, said Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the Pasco County school district.
“They could tell there were too many (pills) missing,” Cobbe said.
School administrators contacted the district’s employee relations department and Smith was questioned about the pills.
“At first she denied it,” Cobbe said. “The longer they talked, she admitted she had been taking them herself.”
Smith was given the choice of resigning or face a recommendation that she be fired, and she resigned, Cobbe said. The school district then contacted the sheriff’s office so a criminal investigation could be conducted.
Cobbe said no one at the district could recall any similar cases. The district’s nursing supervisor plans to implement procedures to make sure it doesn’t happen again, Cobbe said, such as a weekly inventory of the number of pills parents bring in and the number that remain at the end of the week.
Smith had worked at the school since October 2012, Cobbe said.
Her hiring date was three months before the Florida Department of Health filed a complaint against her Jan. 18 alleging that from Nov. 18, 2010, to July 21, 2011, Smith phoned in numerous fraudulent prescriptions to pharmacies using the name of a doctor at Pediatric Partners of Zephyrhills.
The prescriptions, which ostensibly were for her husband, were for Tramodol, a pain medication, and Fioricet, which is commonly used to treat migraine headaches, records said.
On June 7, the state Board of Nursing, meeting in Tampa, acted on the complaint and suspended Smith’s license as an LPN and ordered her to pay $1,096 in investigative costs. The license suspension was to remain in effect until Smith entered an intervention program for nurses and complied with all the terms and conditions of that program.
Cobbe said the school district had been unaware that Smith’s nursing license had been suspended. School clinic assistants are not required to be licensed nurses, but the license suspension and the reasons behind it would have affected her employment regardless, Cobbe said.
Smith had listed Pediatric Partners of Zephyrhills as one of her references and the doctor’s office gave no reason for New River Elementary to reject her when Assistant Principal Clara Craig called to ask about her work history, according to Smith’s school district employment file.
A spokeswoman for Pediatric Partners declined to comment.