Selma High damaged after sprinklers set off

Published 8:02 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Students are known for playing pranks on the last day of school like filling up a teacher’s office with balloons, but one Selma High School student took things beyond just a simple joke last Thursday.

According to Sgt. Evelyn Ghant with the Selma Police Department, a 17-year-old Selma High School student set off the sprinkler system, which caused hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of damage to the school and unnecessary manpower for the Selma fire and police departments.

“This wasn’t a prank. This was serious business,” said Selma Fire Chief Mike Stokes. “They didn’t just set off the fire alarm. They actually damaged the fire sprinkler system in the building, which caused a considerable amount of damage to the building.”

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According to Ghant, the sprinkler system as set off around 2:15 p.m. Thursday, May 21.

“[Detectives] were informed that several students were inside the classroom, and one of the students climbed on a table,” Ghant said. “He then used a cigarette lighter [and] placed it underneath the fire sprinkler system.”

According to Stokes, between 13,000-14,000 gallons of water were released by the time the sprinkler was shut off. An early estimate of the damage is around $400,000 to the high school, which was built in 2012.

“They destroyed a brand new high school by simply damaging a sprinkler system,” Stokes said. “There were thousands and thousands of gallons of water that went into that building for no reason. If you couple that with the amount of manpower it took for us to try to get it under control and attempt the start cleaning up a little bit, then the total actually goes even higher.”

According to Ghant, the water damaged books, computers and smart boards, along with other equipment, but the real damage may not be in plain site yet.

“The hidden damage will be if the floor tiles start buckling up. That water gets up under the tiles and lets that glue turn loose,” Stokes said. “The floor could start popping up, and the ceiling tiles are destroyed. Everything that the water touched was destroyed.”

The 17-year-old was arrested and charged with criminal mischief after detectives with the Criminal Investigation Division interviewed witnesses. He was later released to his parents for a juvenile appearance agreement in Dallas County Juvenile Court.

Even without a fire, the entire school had to be evacuated.

“Although there wasn’t a fire, it was still an emergency,” Stokes said. “The school still had an emergency they had to square away.”

According to School Board President Henry Hicks, the damage was contained to an upstairs classroom, and the school system is still evaluating the damage with its insurance company.

Superintendent Dr. Angela Mangum and Principal Aubrey Larkin could not be reached for comment.