VIRGINIA BEACH -- School officials are warning parents that 1/2-inch-square paper tabs with likenesses of Mickey Mouse and other Walt Disney characters on them are being used in some parts of the country to distribute LSD, a powerful hallucinogen.
The drug-soaked tabs, which have been found in some New England states and in New York City, depict Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in the movie "Fantasia"; Goofy, the dog; and Dopey, a character from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
Authorities say that some display a drawing of Superman or small blue stars.
School officials, concerned that youngsters might mistake the brightly colored tabs for stamps or "lick and stick tatoos," are alerting parents that the tabs could seriously injure their children.
A minute quantity of LSD can affect mental faculties, and large quantities can cause serious brain damage and death.
While authorities have no reason to believe the tabs have gotten into the hands of youngsters in South Hampton Roads, the principal of Plaza Elementary School, Hazel Wright, said Friday that she had sent a notice to parents as "a warning in case some of these things should show up."
At least one other elementary school principal will send out a similar warning, and school system officials said the tabs would be on the agenda of PTA meetings at several other schools.
Made popular on the West Coast, the paper tabs sometimes come in the form of stamps and decals, according to David Hoover, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington.
Hoover said no tabs have been found in Virginia. "Of course, I could be wrong," he said. "I don't necessarily hear about everything." Virginia Beach narcotics detectives said Friday that they have not found any here.
Some of the tabs recently got into the hands of several schoolchildren in New Hampshire, according to Hoover, but authorities "caught them in time" and no one was seriously hurt.
A spokesman for the Tidewater drug agency said he understood that some of the tabs were marked with the characters by rubber stamps and ink.
Irwin Okun of Disney Productions in Burbank, Calif., said that his company distributes a "schoolhouse" line of appliques the size of postage stamps depicting Disney characters.
Okun said he had been told that the tabs being used to distribute LSD were counterfeit.
The tabs are elaborately packaged, according to one description, individually wrapped in foil, sealed in a clear, ziplock plastic bag and packed in a red cardboard box with a picture of Mickey Mouse on top. The tabs generally come in 5-inch-square sheets with 100 doses each and are sometimes sold in smaller strips.
The notice sent to parents of Plaza Elementary School pupils said, "The children need to be made aware of the potential and serious danger these innocent looking stickers contain."
Administrators at the school learned about the tabs from John Combs, a father of a Plaza pupil, during a Parent-Teacher Association meeting earlier this week. Combs said Friday that he read about them in a U.S. Navy newsletter, "Weaponeer."
"Most kids love to save stickers and stamps to collect them," Combs said. "I can just see a kid licking one of them and killing himself."
Bruce McGuire, an assistant superintendant of schools, said he had received a letter about the tabs from William Griffith, headmaster of St. Christopher's Lower School in Richmond.
McGuire said officials are encouraging schools to circulate information about the tabs and to discuss them at Parent-Teacher Association meetings. He said the tabs were discussed earlier this week at a meeting of school principals.