Atlantic High cited for fire-breather, but two other schools get a pass

Former stuntman Ricky "Inferno" Charles in the Atlantic High School gym, March 17, 2016, in Delray Beach, Florida, runs while on fire. (Photo provided)

Former stuntman Ricky “Inferno” Charles in the Atlantic High School gym runs while on fire. (Photo provided)

Two educators at Atlantic High have been reprimanded for allowing a fire-breather to perform at a school pep rally, but the school district says it will not censure two schools that permitted the same performance two years ago.

In reprimanding Atlantic High’s principal and a teacher, school district administrators admonished them for poor judgment and for failing to follow protocol.

The danger of the fire-breathing stunt was underscored March 17, when Rick “Inferno” Charles accidentally ignited himself at a pep rally in front of 2,000 Atlantic High students. He suffered second-degree burns.

Teacher William Durgin — who arranged the performance — admitted that he knew that fire would be a component of it.

But in mounting his defense, he pointed out that both Boca Raton High and Spanish River High had hired Charles in 2014 to do similar pyrotechnic performances.

(Manatee Elementary also hired Charles’ company but his performance there apparently did not include pyrotechnics.)

“If these three great schools were using his show, I thought it was okay,” Durgin told the district’s human resources staff in May.

“The precedent had been set,” he added.

School district officials were unpersuaded by Durgin’s defense. They say that he and Atlantic High principal Tara Dellegrotti-Ocampo failed to exercise best professional judgment.

But administrators say they will not investigate or discipline any officials at Boca Raton or Spanish River high schools, pointing to how long ago the incidents there occurred.

“The district is reinforcing current policies and moving forward,” the school district said in a statement.

Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said that the previous incidents happened two years ago, and that “the message has been made pretty clear moving forward.”

“They’re old cases,” he told Extra Credit. “We talked to the principals about it. There’s always lessons learned and we feel like we learned a good lesson.”

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