Student Tips Led To Mercury Arrest - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/28/03

Student Tips Led To Mercury Arrest

When a hazardous chemical contaminated parts of a coast school, some young people decided not to look the other way. Bay St. Louis police chief Frank McNeil says an anonymous tip from students led to the arrest of a 16-year-old Bay High student. The 16-year-old is accused of bringing Mercury to school on Thursday. McNeil says he is still not sure where the student got the substance.

Danielle Thomas talked to adults and teenagers to get both generations' perspectives on what's going on.

Blair and Brittany Strong say the Bay High student arrested on Friday isn't mean spirited. The girls know the person accused of bringing Mercury to their school and don't believe he meant to hurt anyone.

"I was somewhat not surprised because there are other people at our school that don't really think before they do things," said Blair.

James Russell agrees that kids don't always think about the consequences of their actions, but as a parent of two daughters he is worried about hazardous substances making their way into schools.

"Kids do, do pranks," said Russell. "I mean it's nature. We all do pranks. I just find that pranks are getting out of hand now days."

For one day, Bay High was shut down last week as Hazmat teams tested for Mercury. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency found traces of mercury at another high school and an elementary school in Hancock County. Authorities believe each was a case of a young person getting hold of the substance.

Russell said he was "rather surprised about it. To find that our students were able to have access to something like that in schools, surprised me."

Bay High junior Brittany Strong had a different opinion.

"A lot of kids can get a hold of whatever they want to get a hold of. If it was guns or anything I'm sure that they could get a hold of it if they wanted to. I'm not surprised at all that they got a hold of it," she said.

A student tip also led to the discovery of Mercury at Hancock High. School officials called the Department of Environmental Quality after a student told the principal that another student brought mercury to school.

by Danielle Thomas

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