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High school bans leaving campus

Last modified: 2/15/2012 12:00:00 AM
Concord High School is no longer letting students leave campus for lunch or move freely in hallways after a fire was set in a bathroom trash can Monday, the second fire at the school in less than two weeks.

The restrictions, which went into effect shortly after Monday's fire, are 'a set of rules we're all going to follow until we feel safe again,' Principal Gene Connolly said yesterday. He said he plans to lift the restrictions once the school determines who was responsible for the fires, both of which were set in trash cans and caused no damage to the building.

'This is not a prank,' Connolly said. 'Someone doing something, they're horsing around, that's one thing. . . . This is something that's really dangerous.'

While he said he put the restrictions in place to help administrators monitor student activity in the hallways, Connolly said he hopes the rules will convey the seriousness of the situation to students and spur those who know what happened to come forward.

'This is a crime,' he said. 'We want to identify the person involved as soon as possible.'

Connolly said Monday's fire was set in a faculty bathroom and discovered shortly before noon by a teacher, who quickly extinguished it. The previous fire happened in a boys bathroom Feb. 3, and both appeared to have been set with a lighter, Connolly said. He said the fire department investigated both incidents and found 'nothing special, no cigarette butts.'

While administrators had leads following the first fire, 'unfortunately we were unable to get enough evidence,' Connolly said.

He said he told students about the second fire and his decision to close the campus in an announcement over the school's intercom Monday, and 'right away kids came down and started saying, 'I think it's this person, it's that person,' ' he said.

Administrators began interviewing students Monday afternoon, and the Concord police were at the school as interviews continued yesterday, Connolly said.

He said students have asked him about the need for the restrictions but haven't been confrontational.

Students interviewed outside the school yesterday afternoon said they were frustrated by the new rules but understood why they were in place. 'They want to catch the person who's doing this,' said Max Blazon. A 17-year-old senior, he was on his way home yesterday afternoon because he didn't have class that period - a privilege that hadn't been lifted.

But despite the rationale for the restrictions, students are griping, Blazon said. He said teachers aren't letting students go to the bathroom during class, prompting questions like: 'Why can't I go to the bathroom? I'm not going to light a trash can on fire.'

Alanna Mignault, 17, said she thinks the new rules are 'ridiculous. I mean, I can see where they're coming from, because fire's not something to play with . . . but for the school to basically shut down?'

She and Jeff Liptak, 16, questioned whether the restrictions would prevent another fire. During lunch yesterday, Liptak said he was stopped and questioned on his way to a bake sale but allowed to continue because he was an upperclassman.

'What if the person who set the fires was an upperclassman? Then what?' he said.

Mignault said rumors are circulating among students about who's responsible, and she reported someone to the school. 'I've heard names,' she said. 'I hope whoever did this goes to jail.'

(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or mhanna@cmonitor.com.)


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