A suburban Denver, Colorado teenage boy is in critical condition after he apparently set himself on fire inside the cafeteria of his high school around Denver in what appears to have been a suicide attempt, state police authorities. A Westminster Police Department spokesperson explained that the boy, age 16, did not make any kind of threats but still started the fire around 7:15 a.m. at Standley Lake High School. The spokesperson said that there was no indication of any threats made toward any schools.
Allegedly, a custodian was able to get hold of a fire extinguisher and put out the flames before they could start to spread. She was apparently cut from glass flying as she broke through the barrier to get the fire extinguisher out of its container. There were numerous other students also in the cafeteria at the same time, but none of them were hurt in the incident. The police spokesperson added that it was unknown how the teenager was able to start the fire. It left widespread smoke throughout the entire building. Emergency workers arrived on scene within minutes and rushed the teenager to a nearby hospital. The injured custodian was treated for her minor cuts at the same hospital.
Lynn Setzer, who is a spokesperson for Jefferson County Public Schools in Denver, stated that Standley Lake was evacuated and then closed up for the rest of the day. All students were sent back to their homes. She explained that she did not know if there were any students already attending class when the fire started. Any students who did not have cars were taken by buses to a nearby middle school, where they were then able to be picked up by parents. Numerous police cruisers and other types of security vehicles blocked the front entrance to the high school.
This most recent incident was just the latest in a string of events to affect schools in the area surrounding Denver in recent weeks and months. Just last Thursday, Columbine High School, where two students shot and killed 13 people back in 1999, was put on high safety alert when that school received a sequence of threatening phone calls. The alert was applied to nearly six or seven other schools in the area. They are all in the same school district as Standley Lake, but the high safety alert was lifted the very same day in the afternoon.
On Dec. 13, 2013, at Arapahoe High School, student Karl Pierson, 17, shot and killed Claire Davis, also age 17, a classmate of his at Arapahoe, located in Centennial, Colorado before he killed himself in the library of the school. Pierson allegedly had threatened one of the teacher’s there and also a librarian who had disciplined the student the year before and was reportedly looking for the teacher when he went into the school, police investigators have explained.
Colorado state lawmakers are now considering keeping the money for a hotline that both students and teachers use in order to report any type of threats and bullying and be able to do it anonymously. State officials explain that the hotline has prevented over two dozen school attacks since it was created in 2004. It costs about $250,000.
It is just a tragedy that the hotline was unable to help this newest horror story, the teenage boy that set himself on fire inside the cafeteria of his school.
By Kimberly Ruble
The Washington Post