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Paintball Equipment Fuels Playground Mutiny

paintball equipment in the hands of children, some rights reserved, http://flickr.com/photos/staipale/2158127694/Dallas, TX—The classrooms at St. Mary’s Elementary are empty. Tiny plastic chairs are uninhabited. The chalkboard is dark. On the playground, swingsets creak erily in the wind. Towards the handball court, one ball rolls slowly along – a scholastic tumbleweed in this asphalt desert. Bright splotches of paint are splattered on the walls of the main office and several windows are shattered in the gymnasium.

The all girls Catholic primer services children from kindergarten through the fourth grade, run by priests and nuns and several volunteer parents. It is known in the community as a tough school, requiring dedication and hard work from its young pupils. But it is as respected by its graduates as it is feared by those first entering its carved oak doors. For while the school is undoubtedly demanding, it is also incredibly rewarding. Graduates have gone on to attend a variety of prestigious elementary and middle schools and it is near impossible to find one former student who does not look back on their time at St. Mary’s with particular fondness.

But these are only fond memories now of a bygone time. We would not guess that students had any warm feelings towards St. Mary’s based on the past fifty-six hours. For now an aura of tense fear has gripped the school, and nothing is business as usual.

Early Monday morning, a box arrived on campus and its effects have been devasting. The box was supposed to be a shipment of watercolor sets — paints and brushes – for the upcoming Spring Flowers art week. Instead, what was delivered was a box containing a two dozen loaded paintball guns. It is still unclear whether the mix-up is the fault of the paint warehouse or the shipping company, but both have issued official apologies.

Also hazy is how exactly the girls of St. Mary’s came to possses the weapons. Somehow, soon after recess on Monday, all twenty-four guns made it into the hands of students, most suspected to be third graders, though their identities have not been revealed. Using the guns to terrorize their teachers and administrators, the girls soon overtook the school, locking the principal and several “mean” teachers in a custodial closet and forcing all other adults to remain in the cafeteria. For the most part the girls have been keeping themselves hidden. If one emerges from a hiding place she is covered in paint, her face hidden behind a bandana, virtually impossible to recognize.

Police have staked out the school, but are in a stand-still, unwilling to use force. Attempts at negotiations have failed as the students have not made any demands. Parents pleas have been ignored and bribes of candy and later bedtimes seem to have had no affect. Any and all cell phones appear to have been confiscated by the girls. The next move is unclear. Police Chief Dan Wriggles commented, “we’ll just have to wait for them to run out of paint balls.”

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