Two Harford County middle school students have been informed that they will be suspended for the rest of the school year on suspicion of playing a prank with a firecracker-like device that injured a school custodian.
The two students, ages 14 and 15, were at Fallston High School on May 18 for a fashion show when a toilet stall door was booby trapped with the device, called a Pulling Trick.
The device is about the size of a fat toothpick with a 3-inch string attached to each end. When the strings are pulled, the Pulling Trick explodes with a sound similar to a cap.
The custodian, Eric McClung, received first- and second-degree burns and bruises to his left hand when he tried to push the stall door open.
The two boys were arrested by Harford County sheriff's deputies and were charged with reckless endangerment. Initially, the boys and their parents were informed that they would be suspended from school for five days.
Donald R. Morrison, a county schools spokesman, said the five-day suspension was the maximum penalty the boys' middle school principal could impose under state law.
But the principal then referred the case to the superintendent of schools who imposed a harsher punishment.
Because school ends June 16, the boys will miss only two more weeks of classes. Still, Nancy Stuhmer, the mother of one of the boys, said last night she thought the punishment was excessive.
"To me this whole situation is ridiculous," Mrs. Stuhmer said. "[The boy] did a dumb thing, but he's being punished time and time again."
Her son is attending alternative classes at Bel Air High School at night during his suspension. He had to quit his baseball team because it conflicted with his night classes, and he will not be able to graduate with his eighth grade class.
Plus, there is the matter of the charges against him, which have yet to be resolved.
"My son is terrified of them coming again and putting him in handcuffs and taking him away," Mrs. Stuhmer said. "So he looks outside the window every time a car pulls into the driveway. I think enough is enough now."
The Pulling Trick device is legal, and the boys bought theirs at a 7-Eleven store in Fallston.
The day after the May 18 incident, the state fire marshal ordered the Pennsylvania company that distributes the devices to stop selling them in Maryland. But several days later, the order was rescinded after it was discovered the state's Fire Prevention Commission had approved the devices for sale in 1993.
The fire marshal will ask the commission to review the approval.