Incendiary device found at high school Molotov cocktail smolders as governor joins Arbor Day event

Glendening not informed

Some parents upset students not evacuated

officials saw no danger

March 28, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan and Andrea F. Siegel | TaNoah Morgan and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An amateurish Molotov cocktail was found smoldering in Arundel Senior High School Wednesday during the governor's visit to the Odenton school.

No one was injured, and the device did not explode. No one was evacuated during the incident, which Anne Arundel County fire and school officials were investigating yesterday. No arrests were made.

Jane Doyle, school system spokeswoman, said administrators felt safe in not ordering the building evacuated, because "this fire had not done anything in this small space. It was not burning any more."

A spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening said she was unaware there was "anything unusual at all" going on at the school while Glendening was there. He visited as 10th-graders wrapped saplings for an Arbor Day event.

Glendening was in a science wing of the building, which is not near the section of the school where the Molotov cocktail was found about 9: 30 a.m. School officials did not call police until after the governor left.

The spokeswoman said the governor left the building at 9: 55 a.m. Police were notified three minutes later, and the county Fire Department was called at 10: 02 a.m., according to police records.

Many teachers first heard of the incident at a faculty meeting after school, and many students learned about it only when they were given a "Dear Parents" letter from Principal William T. Myers to take home Wednesday. Myers could not be reached yesterday.

Doyle said school officials acted quickly and were not trying to keep a potentially dangerous situation quiet because Glendening was there.

"I can assure you that would never have been a concern of ours, no matter who was visiting the school," she said.

"We would not consider that an embarrassment, to evacuate a school. We would consider that our responsibility."

The incident upset some parents the day before spring break.

"They endangered my child," said Zoe Draughon, a frequent school system critic and parent of an 11th-grader. Draughon was furious that the building was not evacuated.

She questioned the ability of school officials to determine how serious a threat existed, but school officials said a fire investigator confirmed their judgment.

"There was no danger unless they broke the container and set a match to it," said J. Gary Sheckells, Fire Department spokesman. "It was not going to catch fire."

Some teachers said they were concerned that they had not known what had happened, but would not discuss the incident with reporters.

According to police and fire officials, groundskeeper John Vickers smelled something burning in a locker in the rear of the building between 9: 30 a.m. and 9: 40 a.m.

He opened the locker and found tissue paper smoldering on top of a 12-inch glass bottle containing clear liquid. The bottle was wrapped in paper and electrical tape, police said.

Vickers notified an assistant principal, who contacted police shortly before 10 a.m.

Fire officials were unsure yesterday what the liquid was, but "it is believed to be a flammable liquid," Sheckells said.

Even though the incendiary device was found in a student's locker, school officials were finding it difficult to trace the source.

"I think they knew whose locker it was, but the kid said he never uses the locker. He hadn't been using it all year long. I think there was no lock on it," said Huntley Cross, special assistant to the superintendent.

Last week, authorities emptied Meade Senior High School and sealed the area after hearing a ticking noise from a locker. It turned out to be a jammed tape recorder.

In neighboring Prince George's County, where there have been 90 bombs and bomb threats this school year, the discovery of anything resembling an incendiary device triggers an evacuation of the building, said Christopher Cason, schools spokesman.

Evacuated students have been outside for a few minutes to a few hours, he said.

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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