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    Teacher: No hint of bomb project

    The students built a fake bomb device, but school officials say there were never any explosives and no danger.

    By LINDA GIBSON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001


    TAMPA -- A high school history teacher has told district officials he was unaware three of his students were building a model bomb as part of his class, "Technology Through Time."

    [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office photo]
    For their assignment, three Tampa Bat Technical High School students decided to build this fake bomb device.
    Jeffrey Hagenmeier told officials his Tampa Bay Technical High School students were given the option of building model weapons of the past or future, and that two groups had taken up the challenge.

    One group built a catapult, the other a model bomb that had not yet been shown to the class. No explosives were ever present, and the model presented no threat.

    Thursday, after an article about the model bomb appeared in the Times, a district spokesman said changes will be made.

    "We've already decided (Hagenmeier) won't be teaching this course in this way at this school anymore," spokesman Mark Hart said.

    The revelation that a model bomb was being built by students drew outrage from some parents and school safety experts who questioned how it could happen amid the heightened concern over bomb threats and shootings on high school campuses across the country.

    Attempts to contact Hagenmeier, who was not at school Thursday, have been unsuccessful. Sylvia Albritton, the school's principal, didn't return phone calls Thursday. Hart said she did not know Hagenmeier's course included a segment on weapons.

    Hart said the segment was included in past years, but the killings at Columbine High School in Colorado and the Hillsborough district's zero-tolerance policy on bomb threats make the weapons assignment questionable. The assignment involved small groups of students studying the weaponry of different centuries, then presenting their findings to the entire class. As an option, the groups could build a model weapon to include in the presentations.

    The Sheriff's Office was contacted Feb. 27 after a student overheard other students talking about the bomb.

    Raymond Nicholson, whose son was one of the three students to build the model bomb, told a deputy he had been monitoring the project and that it was harmless. A bomb squad detective who looked it over agreed it was not a functioning bomb.

    "The device was made to look like a hoax device," wrote Detective Craig Darlak in his report. He noted, however, that if it was made functional by adding an explosive, it would be able to cause massive damage.

    Sheriff's deputies decided neither the students nor Hagenmeier had committed a crime because they hadn't made or intended any threat.

    Hagenmeier, 39, has been teaching in the district since 1989. He spent five years at Dowdell Middle School and in 1996 transferred to Tampa Bay Tech, a magnet school for students adept at math and science.

    His evaluations have been uniformly satisfactory, describing him in 1998 as "innovative, bright, caring and professional."

    "This gentleman really overextends himself to make a difference for his students and Tampa Bay Tech," wrote an evaluator. More current evaluations weren't available.

    He has been asked to appear today at the district's office of professional standards.

    Hart said Linda Kipley, director of the professional standards office, would interview Hagenmeier, then recommend what, if any, action should be taken. Ultimately, Superintendent Earl Lennard will decide if Hagenmeier should be punished.

    Possible actions range from counseling and probation up to termination.

    - Linda Gibson can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or at gibson@sptimes.com.

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