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Students Allegedly Burn Down Principal's House Out of Revenge

The Short of It

A high school principal and his family are living in a motel after their Idaho home was destroyed in a fire that was allegedly started by four students out for revenge.

The Lowdown

Police Chief Mark Clark told the Idaho Statesman that two Payette, Idaho, students had recently been suspended after a high school investigation into prescription drug use. The two students, plus two accomplices, then deliberately set fire to Principal Mark Heleker's house out of revenge and watched from a distance as the house burned. A few hours later, authorities say one of the students posted the message "Burn b**** burn" on social media, along with an emoji of flames.

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"They could actually see this fire raging, fully engulfed and one of them made a comment: 'You know what? That ass**** deserves this,'" Clark said. "They never called 911. They had to know people were in the home sleeping."

In fact, Heleker, his wife Lori, and their 24-year-old daughter, Katie, were all inside at the time of the fire. Thankfully, they all got out safely, but the house is ruined.

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The four students responsible—three in high school, one in middle—were arrested for burning down the home. One suspect has been charged with first degree arson, and the other three have been charged with conspiracy. According to officials, all four will be tried as adults.

The Upshot

This is a truly horrible story, one that makes me question the future of our children and wonder where the parents of those four kids are in all this. Principal Heleker and his family are lucky to be alive. But I can't stop thinking about how this could easily have gone a different way.

But Heleker—who has been a principal for nine years and says he knows all of the 430 students at the school—and his wife Lori, a teacher, remain optimistic.

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"We've spent 20 years looking for the best in children," Lori said. "And that's not going to change because four of them made a really bad decision."

And on that note, Heleker's students have set up a GoFundMe page to help him and his family recover from the fire.

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