Fire at Capitol Hill high school investigated as arson, possible hate crime

SEATTLE -- When investigators arrived at Nova High School, they learned a fire could be more than just an accident. The alternative school has a high population of LGBT and transgender students.

Police say Wednesday morning someone tampered with a gender-neutral bathroom after setting the principal's door on fire.

“We are pretty lucky that it didn’t spread,” Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard said.

A custodian at the school spotted the principal’s door on fire and extinguished the flames, saving the school from possibly burning down.

Police say the case could be more than arson because they found a chemical outside the bathroom.

Investigators are trying to determine if it's the same accelerant used to set the principal's door on fire.

“We don’t know if this is a hate crime. We don’t have a motive yet, but considering the fact that a gender-neutral bathroom was targeted, we are considering the likelihood that this was a hate crime,” said Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb.

There are no signs of a break-in, so the question is how did someone sneak into the school before classes began?

“Most of our schools have a custodian entrance -- they are locked and unlocked with their special keys, so that's a part of the investigation. Was that door left unlocked could somebody have followed him in?” Howard said.

With no surveillance cameras inside, investigators will rely on forensic evidence for clues.

In the meantime, they are assuring parents that their kids are safe.

“There are extra patrols at the school so students feel safe,” Whitcomb said.

Classes resumed after the scene was deemed safe. District officials say it is rare to have a hate crime incident happen at any of their schools.