Restitution ordered after 3 AHS students disrupt MFA field trip

AHS logoInterim principal decries rumors; 2 officials say no alarm pulled at school

Three Arlington High School students disrupted a field trip to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, as two of them jumped on an antique bed, but caused no permanent damage, Mary Villano, interim principal, wrote in an email to parents and guardians Friday, May 25. The Globe reported May 28 that the two have been suspended from school and students have been asked to pay restitution. She told YourArlington that the amount has not been determined.

In an update May 27, the town's fire chief said he has no record of an alarm pulled before the trip at AHS, and the interim principal says an alarm was "bumped."

The trip on Thursday, May 24, involved about 260 sophomores and was organized by the history department as part of the US History I curriculum. "For the most part the trip was a wonderful event," she wrote. "Most students behaved beautifully, were fully engaged in the activities that were assigned by their teachers, and represented Arlington in a way that made us proud."

She described "one very unfortunate incident involving a couple of students who upset a display.  The students involved were immediately taken out of the museum and returned to Arlington High with a chaperone. It was close to the end of the visit, so the lead chaperone decided to end the trip about 15 minutes early. Students then loaded the buses and returned to the school."

YourArlington learned about the incident about 8 a.m. May 25 and called Villano, asking for comment. She did not respond.

At the MFA, Karen Frascona, associate director of public relations, was asked for details May 25. She responded: "We cannot discuss specifics or matters related to security, but can tell you that no damage was done."

A source had told YourArlington that there had been damage after one student jumped on a "300-year-old King Henry bed." Those details could not be learned directly. Henry VIII reigned in the 16th century.

The incident occurred in the museum's Art of Americas wing, and the bed dates to the 1800s, according to a report by CBS Boston.

Villano responds to rumors

Villano addressed apparent misinformation in the community.

"Several rumors have been circulating around town and on Facebook regarding the incident," she wrote. "Many of what you have been hearing is inaccurate and blown out of proportion. After a very comprehensive investigation by our administrative Team and by the Arlington Police, we have verified the following information as true.

"• Three students entered the display area, two of them went on top of an antique bed, which caused it to collapse.

"• There is no permanent damage to the display. The supports to the bed were reassembled and the display has been restored to its original condition. There is no damage to the bed itself.

"• Security at the museum asked that the students responsible leave the museum.

"• No other AHS students were asked to leave.

"• We are not being charged by the MFA.

"• Arlington High School is welcome at the museum any time.

Fire chief cites no alarm that day

One report about the MFA field trip posted to the Arlington email list claimed that one of the students who jumped on a bed had earlier pulled a fire alarm at the high school before the trip got underway.

A resident who said he was at the school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. said he heard no alarm while he was there.

YourArlington asked Fire Chief Robert Jefferson whether an alarm had been pulled at AHS between 7 and 11 a.m. that day. His response: "The AFD did not respond to AHS on 5/24/2012."

He wrote that the department's log shows no incident at AHS that day.

"If an alarm is pulled, it would go to our dispatch," he wrote.

Asked whether an alarm could be pulled but not sound, Jefferson wrote: "An alarm could be pulled and not sound. That would be a system malfunction and if that happened, the APS should have notified the AFD and building maintenance who would notify the alarm company."

Villano comments on alarm, chaperones

Villano offered her own response May 27:

"No alarm was pulled. Someone bumped into the pull box, and the warning alarm sounded (a local noise for that room only). We simply snap the cover back in place, and the sound stops.

"This system is a deterrent for students so they don't pull fire alarms. The noise draws attention to them before they can pull the real alarm. Works great. We have not had a false alarm in years since this was installed that I can remember."

In addition, she wrote, "There were plenty of chaperones (28). That is better than a 10-to-1 ratio."

Villano's earlier statement continued that the school resource officer and court liaison met with the director of protective services, Craig McQuate, at the museum on the morning of May 25. He assured us that there was no permanent damage to the display.

He stated emphatically that they recognized this was an unfortunate incident and that "the actions of these students do not reflect on the entire school."

Villano said she spoke to McQuate, "and he assured me that the museum staff was in agreement that all of our other students were very respectful on the trip. He added that it is a credit to our school that many of the students apologized to them as they left the museum. He also told us that Arlington High School was welcome at the museum any time.

"I am pleased that the museum has responded so positively to this regrettable incident and was able to see that the actions of a few do not reflect poorly on everyone.

"As an administration, we have addressed the incident with the students responsible for the incident as well as their parents. Appropriate consequences have been assigned. We hope that this can now be put to rest and that our sophomores can remember the positive aspects of the visit to the museum."

In closing, she wrote: "Someone generated and passed on incorrect information in the community around this incident which raised serious concerns and created undue angst for many of us. I cannot do anything about this unfortunately and I am saddened that individuals choose to bring negative publicity to our school.

"This is the third incident this year where someone called the media and shared descriptions of events that were false or blown out of proportion. I can only hope that our community members consider the source of information before jumping to conclusions. Just because it is 'out there' does not mean it is true.

"Our administrative team is committed to getting the true facts out to all of you once they have been verified."


This story was first published Friday, May 25, 2012, and updated the next day as well as May 27 and 28.