Police ID student believed to have set fire at the Ashland Middle School on Tuesday

ASHLAND — Police say they have identified a student who intentionally set fire to a paper-towel dispenser in the boys' bathroom at Ashland Middle School Tuesday, triggering an evacuation of the school and causing significant damage to the restroom.

The juvenile is cooperating with investigators, police said. No one was hurt in the two-alarm fire, which started shortly after 11 a.m. and disrupted classes for nearly two hours.

The Ashland Police Department's Detective Division identified the student after a joint investigation with Ashland Fire & Rescue. The student will be referred to Jackson County Community Justice's Juvenile Division. Juvenile Department officials could not be reached Thursday for comment on charges the student faces.

Ashland schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro declined to comment on disciplinary action the student may be facing, but said there will be consequences for setting the fire.

"This is a crime, so it's being treated as a crime," Di Chiro said.

The school district's policies on student conduct and discipline say students are subject to discipline, suspension or expulsion for committing criminal acts on school grounds, which includes vandalism and disruption of the school environment.

"Restitution may be sought for willful damage to district property," the policy reads.

A fire alarm sounded just after 11 a.m. Tuesday after the student set the fire. School officials and students evacuated the building and flocked to the nearby soccer fields.

Ashland Fire & Rescue and Jackson County Fire District No. 5 responded to the school with four engines after a second alarm was called. Crews arrived on scene to see smoke pouring from the roof. Firefighters knocked the blaze down in about 15 minutes.

"The interior of the bathroom is pretty damaged," said Ashland Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman. "Everything in the bathroom has a good coat of soot on it."

Estimates of the damage, which was contained to the bathroom, are not yet available, officials said.

Students were allowed back inside the school for lunch at 12:45 p.m.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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