Clearwater, FL -- Several parents at High Point Elementary school in Clearwater were not happy with school officials, who were being tight-lipped and aloof about an incident at the school Wednesday.
A fire sent an 8-year-old boy to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital, but the circumstances surrounding the incident remained a mystery until almost 24 hours later.
“I really don't know what happened. What happened here?” asked a woman named Angelia who brought her two grandchildren to school Thursday morning – still uneasy about what had happened hours earlier.
“I'm trusting them. Because my children go here,” she said.
At about 2:30 pm Wednesday, children poured from school’s exits. Fire alarms were blaring. Cops and rescue workers rushed to the scene.
Within minutes, a trauma helicopter was airlifting one young student to the hospital.
And yet, when parents asked the simple question what happened, the most many could get from the principal’s office was a vague note or phone call. It acknowledged that a child had been injured, and let them know counselors would be on hand today to give the kids support.
But for what?
“A parent should know the situation,” said Shakeena Jackson, who dropped her son off at school Wednesday.
Late Thursday, Pinellas school officials finally confirmed some details.
An 8-year old boy in possession of a lighter, they say, had set himself on fire. Whether it was intentionally or accidentally was still unclear.
It’s also possible, officials say, that the incident was witnessed by other students.
The boy's teacher was also slightly injured in the same incident.
“A lot of students may have seen or experienced things that were traumatic for them as well,” said Pinellas Schools Spokesperson Lisa Wolf. “So what we're working on now is to return a sense of normalcy to the school as quickly as possible.”
Those details were at least enough to settle some parents’ nerves about the potential of an ongoing safety threat at the school.
Still, it had others asking new questions.
How well was the student being supervised? Where did the lighter come from?
Details – they still feel entitled to.
“I would want to know that, because I have questions,” said Angelina. “Fire. Kids bringing matches. What happened? How come he was able to light it? I have questions now if that's what happened.”
But there’s a balance, said Wolf between what parents want to know and what they can legally release.
“There's also privacy concerns involved,” said Wolf. “So, just like any parent would want their student’s privacy protected we need to be sensitive to the family's privacy. And the privacy of the student involved.”
Pinellas school officials had still not released the child's name, citing confidentiality issues. And without that name officials at Tampa General Hospital say they cannot discuss a patient’s condition.
But a teacher leaving the school Wednesday told us off-camera that the child is expected to be okay.
The State Fire Marshal’s office was still investigating.
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