The Capitol Hill campus of Seattle Public alternative Nova High School was apparently targeted in an arson attack Wednesday morning, according to Seattle Police. A report on the incident is below.
Police say the fire was intentionally set on Nova principal Dr. Mark Perry’s door. An accelerant was also found on the door of a gender-neutral bathroom in another part of the school building but the bathroom was not set on fire.
A Seattle Police spokesperson said while detectives do not yet know the motive for the incident, they are considering the likelihood that it was a hate crime and SPD patrols in the area have been increased to make sure students are safe. The department’s bias crime detective has been assigned to the case.
Despite the presence of a media helicopter above the school, SPD tells CHS that there is no active threat and that classes are continuing inside. Students were put into “shelter in place” status during the morning, however — but that was only so the media could enter the school building to view the fire damage.
The spokesperson also said a fast-acting custodian prevented more damage by putting out the flames after a lunchroom employee noticed the fire around 7 AM. A Seattle Fire unit was called to the campus near 19th Ave and Thomas just before 7:30 AM to respond to the incident. There were no reported injuries.
Police do not yet have a description of any suspects in the case and don’t yet know how the school was accessed by the arsonist. There are no surveillance cameras on the Meany campus, a school official said. Police are asking anybody with information to call 911.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb said while it is possible this could be a student issue with Nova, the fact that a school was set on fire and a gender-neutral bathroom targeted makes the case a high priority for SPD.
The incident also comes after the reports of two anti-gay bias assaults on Capitol Hill over the weekend and as SPD’s new Safe Place program is rolled out.
Around 350 students are part of Nova’s non-traditional educational system emphasizing personal choice and student-led curriculum. It is due to move from Meany Campus to make way for construction to create a new middle school to serve the Capitol Hill area. The campus is currently home to the World School and the alternative high school program. Nova will return to its longtime home in the Horace Mann building on E Cherry.
A schools spokesperson said that students aren’t asked to provide the information but the SPD spokesperson said there is a “robust” LGBTQ population at the school.
Here is the SPD report on the fire:
The Seattle Police Department has increased patrols around Nova High School this morning after suspicious chemicals were found outside a gender-neutral restroom shortly after an arson fire was set on campus.
Police responded to Nova High School this morning around 7:30 AM after receiving a report someone had set fire to the principal’s office door. The fire was extinguished before it spread.
School staff then found a chemical sprayed outside a gender-neutral restroom on campus, and SPD’s Arson/Bomb detectives are investigating whether it is the same substance used to ignite the principal’s office door.
Bias Crimes detectives are also reviewing the incident because of the evidence found outside the gender-neutral bathroom.
School officials are continuing classes through the day and working closely with police to ensure the safety of students on campus.