Federal Way schools Superintendent Tom Murphy is warning parents about an Internet fad in which kids use a popular body spray to light themselves or their clothing on fire. Five Federal Way middle school students have been expelled since Feb. 23 for the practice, spokeswoman Deb Stenberg said this afternoon.
No injuries or damages were reported in the incidents, she added.
All of the students were sixth-grade boys who attended either Saghalie or Lakota middle schools, Stenberg said. The first incident occurred Feb. 23 and the most recent happened last Wednesday. Two of them happened in a classroom; one occurred on a bus.
Four of the students were readmitted to school after completing a Fire Stoppers program through South King Fire & Rescue, Stenberg. The fifth remains out of class.
They’re apparently following a word-of-mouth fad that began on YouTube. There are a number of videos showing kids turning aerosols – reportedly Axe Deoderant Bodyspray – into flamethrower . One shows a group of boys lighting their arms on fire and laughing, then extinguishing the alcohol-fueled flames.
In his “Important Safety Message Parents” posted on the Federal Way School District Web site and mailed to homes last week, Murphy said he was compelled to warn against “a dangerous activity that is increasing in frequency among young people.”
” Children are using Axe Body Spray, a popular cologne among young people, to light themselves or their clothing on fire,” his letter continued.
“YouTube videos and news reports show the dangerous activity is being practiced across the world. .. Children often don’t have the judgment to understand the dangers in what they view online,” he wrote.
Murphy’s letter urges parents who know kids engaged in any unsafe behavior to call the Safe Schools Tip-Line at 253-945-SAFE (7233). He asked that they also remind students they can call, too, and remain anonymous.
Here’s Murphy’s letter:
An Important Safety Message for Parents
March 24, 2010
Dear Parents and Guardians,
We want to alert parents to a dangerous activity that is increasing in frequency among young people. Children are using Axe Body Spray, a popular cologne among young people, to light themselves or their clothing on fire. YouTube videos and news reports show the dangerous activity is being practiced across the world. In Federal Way, a number of students this year have been expelled for lighting themselves or their clothing on fire with Axe at school.
It appears the activity is gaining popularity because of videos on YouTube. Children often don’t have the judgment to understand the dangers in what they view online. The Internet has helped spread the information faster. While we encourage you to monitor Internet use, don’t assume that alone will protect them. Many children still hear about it in person from their friends.
Our first priority is to create a safe and comfortable learning environment for all students. We depend on parents and other adults in our students’ lives to partner with us in that goal. Please model safe behaviors at home and talk with your student about the dangers of playing with fire. Lighting a person on fire can lead to first, second or third degree burns as well as damage to property and criminal prosecution. Students who participate in this activity at school will be expelled.
Middle school boys are among the most at-risk for participating in dangerous experiments with fire, although all children should be warned of the danger. One thing to look out for is lighters. There is no reason for children to carry lighters.
As always, if you hear or see anything that makes you concerned for a student or staff member’s safety, please call the Safe Schools Tip-Line at 253-945-SAFE (7233). Please remind your students that they can do the same and remain anonymous if they wish.
It is important to take the early signs of fire setting seriously. South King Fire and Rescue offers a Fire Stoppers educational intervention program designed to educate parents and children about fire safety and the consequences of fire. Fire Department personnel are trained to assess fire setting behaviors, provide fire safety education and to recommend additional assistance if needed. Educational services are free and financial assistance with counseling may be available. For more information, please call 253-946-7337.
Thomas R. Murphy,