The End of the Affair?

A 16-year-old sophomore is set to be arraigned today and charged with arson in connection with fires set on three consecutive days at Boston Latin School. In a communications with parents, a school administrator said that, as in all cases involving school action against students, the name of the student won’t be released to the public.

By all accounts, teachers, staff and administrators at the school acted quickly and effectively in each of the three fires to put out the blaze and get students out of the school. In conversations with students present at the time of the fires, the Parent Imperfect has yet to find anyone who felt that they were in any real danger.

Since students at the school must have a pass any time they are in the halls during class, each fire likely focused attention on a smaller number of people. If the administration could be sure that all visitors to the school also had passes, they were in a good position to identify a single person who was in the halls during each incident…assuming that one person was setting the fires.

Rumors swept the school yesterday that, if a third fire were to occur, state law would require that the school be shut down for up to three weeks. Students expecting that sort of break returned to school today, disappointed.

Unfortunately, the “crowd-sourcing” capacity present at the school will likely produce a wealth of rumors regarding the identity of the alleged perpetrator. This is normal, and all part of the natural tendency to want to attribute acts like this a single disturbed or angry person. Once that person is removed, students can return to the grind that is BLS and parents can feel comfortable sending their children to school each day.

The PI joined in that collective sigh of relief when the police arrested someone, although there is no guarantee that the person in custody acted alone, or is even the one who set the fires. Vince would never admit that he was at all on edge about the fires, but he definitely seemed a bit more relaxed today (If he were any more relaxed, he’d have to be carried to the bus). If the police have the right person, he is lucky that the authorities put an end to this before he seriously hurt someone or was physically injured, himself. We hope that he will get some help for whatever problems led him to this series of acts that he knew would eventually get him in lots of trouble.

The PI won’t fan the rumors by speculating about why a 16-year-old might have done this, but it is obvious that students at BLS must be able to deal with a lot of pressure and competition at a very early age. In recent years, the school has taken important steps to strengthen systems to provide support to students having trouble at the school, or outside the school, but the stress on students and their families continues to be considerable. As resources get tighter, addressing the effects of such stress, always a challenge in a large school, becomes even more difficult. The events of the past few days affirm the importance of efforts to shift the culture at BLS to one where every student feels supported to be a successful and productive member of the community. The identification, arrest and arraignment of one young man should not be the end of the affair.


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