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Police: Teacher burned ‘I love mom’ in students’ arms with Tesla coil

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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A prosecutor isn’t filing criminal charges “at this time” against an Oregon science teacher accused of using a Tesla coil to burn the phrase “I love mom” into students’ arms.

Samuel Dufner was arrested Tuesday at South Salem High School.

Salem police Lt. Steve Birr says students used the coil in an exercise last week. Dufner noted it could also be used to mark the skin and asked for volunteers.

The 37-year-old burned “I love mom” into their arms — with a heart to symbolize the word love. Birr says the marks have since faded.

Marion County Deputy District Attorney Doug Hanson said Wednesday his office has decided not to charge Dufner now but the investigation continues.

The Salem-Keizer School District placed Dufner on leave.

The Tesla coil transmits electricity without wires at high frequency and high voltage levels.

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70 comments

  • J Boyce

    Flashback — 1964.
    My high school physics teacher did something similar. I will NEVER forget that display. For some of us, it fired a lifelong interest in science; one student when on to great work in physics. Parents complaining when kids volunteered? If my parents had not liked it, they’d have hit me up side the head, and no cop or DA would have ever considered arresting the teacher. He brought science alive! No wonder US kids are “bored” with science and we need immigration reform in this country just to fill the few real science jobs that remain in our modern “service” economy!

      • Philip Henson

        I am sure that the students understood the tatoo-ing was made by burning yet they volunteered for the process. Congratulations on best entry for “Idiot of the Year -2015!” with you comment and assessment. The high voltage arc makes a cauterizing burn which is the visible mark. The only real issue as there is no risk of infection with a simple surface burn or cautery is the permanent scarring if the burn is made deep or scratched or chaffed afterward. The teacher should not have suggested doing cautery tatooing to begin with especially this being in the literally Liberally Insane state of Oregon though. I wonder if some of these same ignorant dimwitted parents are going to try to have their medical doctors arrested every time one of their brats needs a wound cauterized as part of medical treatment also? These same useless parents should have been disciplining their kids about not making rash decisions and punishing the kids for volunteering for the “arc tatoo”….. Typical Liberal Idiots and their typical responses…..

        • Jon 964

          ….well that’s weird, another news site did this story also, and said that the markings on the young adults’ arms had already faded and were not visible anymore….maybe it’s just the parents looking for a little payola? Guess his comment wasn’t so dumb after all huh? Jump to conclusions much…. heck, you had them needing skin grafts and reconstructive surgery as well as treatment for sepsis and myelitis. Who’s stupid now?

        • Cory

          Isn’t it normally conservatives who get irritated with tattooing? I mean it seems more like someone who is upset that the big bad government is messing with their property (i.e. kids). Aren’t liberals more known for tattooing and piercing it up?

          As I’m typing this, I’m also thinking that it probably had absolutely NOTHING to do with political affiliation.

          • James C Leslie (@scornsorrow)

            The real problem here is, Conservatives Hate Science, so of course they want this poor teacher hanged from the rafters. If any of them actually understood what happened, they would already know that not only were none of the children harmed, they didn’t even feel any pain… just a tickle.

        • Talis

          K0CHTalibanista says:”Liberally insane”
          Henson insane is believing FuX Noise.
          Insane is believing that any of the K0CH clown grifters running for president care about you.
          Insane is well, YOU.

        • Chal

          Liberal? Speaking of typical responses. You make the usual ASSumptions tagged to you right wing nutjobs. Painting all “liberals” since I’m sure you’d consider me one, as having the same understanding of something is typical of you right wing nutjobs that make comments like yours which never fail to apply politics where it’s irrelevant. The stupidity one can read here from people like you is just dumbfounding! After all, it’s you conservative, science ignoring, “god” worshiping, corporate worshiping, military worshiping (until you insanely think they are going to invade you like those in TexASS) fools that are the ones that have problems with things like tattoos.

        • Leigh Loeb

          Funny take on Oregon, where I live among a bunch of dimwitted, conservative nuts who sound just like you! Parents complain (right or wrong) and you decimate half the United States under the umbrella of “liberals.” You truly exemplify everything that is wrong with this country: ignorance, intolerance, hatred and a stupidity that knows no bounds.

      • Dana

        Some burn. The *police* have stated that the students’ marks have faded away. High schoolers do worse to one another playing chicken with cigarettes. (My dad and his scarred forearms could tell you all about that one.)

      • Brenda Hollister

        These posts are pretty entertaining. There was ONE parent who complained. He/she is a hysterical idiot, IMO. This was a junior science class. Most of these “kids” are 17 years old. We have a student in this class. No one was hurt, no one was “burned,” the marks are not permanent, and he didn’t ask for volunteers. The students asked him to let them try it. Sam Dufner is a good teacher and one of the most well-liked teachers at South Salem High School. Kudos to all of you who recognize how ridiculous the hysteria is. The lack of pertinent information is just typical of Fox News.

    • Max

      That’s nice and all, but you’ve missed the point where apparently phrases were burned into the skin of students. If you need to be 18 or older to legally receive tattoos, scarification or other forms of permanent body modification, then I’m gonna go out on a limb and say none of these HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS were old enough to give legal consent to this ‘demonstration’.

      • Wes Kretzschmar

        The marks were not permanent. But hey, let’s just jump to conclusions and execute this guy before hearing the facts. Man, I think we need more teachers like this because clearly most Americans have no concept for rational thought these days.

      • Corinne

        Whoa, take it easy, Max. Deep breaths. Everything is going to be alright, the marks aren’t permanent. If you’re still upset in a few weeks though, maybe look to petition for a ban on henna tattoos and other temporary skin marking. You could even add something in there about personal temporary skin marking and we could send kids to some sort of rehab for using a permanent marker on their own skin.

  • Reynold4

    Anyone who would fire this teacher….. hates moms, hates women, hates science. So some kids volunteered for a mild lightning tattoo, done in the light of day. That’s just good physics fun. Life goes on. This teacher is a good teacher.

    • Jennifer David

      So you’re really saying you’d have no problem at all if a teacher burned your minor child’s skin? Even with that permission? You’re ok with someone burning children? Scary!

      • fgm312

        You are ignorant beyond measure. It should be illegal for people to breed without a working knowledge of science and indoctrination in religion should be outlawed at is is counterproductive to actual education and progress.

        • Scott Rutherford

          “The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power. My Mother had taught me to seek all truth in the Bible; therefore I devoted the next few months to the study of this work.” -Nikolai Tesla (and he seems to have done OK in science despite religious indoctrination… his father was a Syrian Orthodox priest)

          • James C Leslie (@scornsorrow)

            I bet you’re one of those “christians” who cherry-picks from the bible, aren’t you?
            Also said by Nikola Tesla (not “Nikolai”, moron)
            Science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without. Owing to the similarity of our construction and the sameness of our environment, we respond in like manner to similar stimuli, and from the concordance of our reactions, understanding is born. In the course of ages, mechanisms of infinite complexity are developed, but what we call “soul ” or “spirit,” is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the “soul” or the “spirit” ceases likewise.

          • fgm312

            Yet he died because he refused the treatment of a doctor. He died alone after being bedridden for many months after an accident. All of his belongings were seized by the FBI and when he died he was impoverished and in debt so no I would say he did not do very well in science or in life. But what do they say? Give “God” all the glory… none of the blame. Logic is something that escapes all religious people.

      • Reynold4

        That’s correct, I would have no problem with it. High School is time to experiment. The process is sterile, since no needles are involved. All in good consensual fun. Love it.

    • Chal

      But, but, BUT!! I’m a parent and how dare you do something to teach my child about something in a completely unharming way? I’ll have you tarred and feathered!!!

  • David

    Question: are those marks permanent? – If so, I totally understand the parent’s complaints and the teacher’s stupidity to do something like that

  • BoB

    I strongly suspect the “burned” marking were extremely superficial in nature. The teacher, while maybe a dynamic and exciting teacher clearly did NOT think this all the way through.
    A reprimand with some unpaid time off work… maybe three or five days, should be sufficient punishment.

  • RobK

    Helicopter parents overreacting. Everything is a huge deal now to some people. Next thing you know kids will be arrested for using a magnifying glass to burn ants. It was superficial and non-permanent, and the kids volunteered. Hardly a reason for a teacher to be arrested.

  • Jon 964

    OMG!!! He could have killed those poor little children!!! Oh wait, there was no way they could have died? Well he could have severely disfigured those poor little children!!! Umm…they were in High School? …and it was only a minor irritation, not anything disfiguring? Oh NVM, this was in Oregon….I get it now… poor kids with over-protective liberal parents. Get out there and play football where the chance of getting a concussion is huge, but if a teacher shows something cool to the kids, he gets cuffed and stuffed… what a shame and disgrace this country has become. So much Hurt-Pheelioma spreading like wildfire.

  • Rhonda George

    OMG, it’s not permanent, then what’s the harm? People are sue happy that’s the real issue. Kids nowadays need some excitement to get them interested, they are so desensitized to everything!

  • Tyler

    So when I was in high school, my chemistry teacher did plenty of experiments with us that left marks. Silver nitrate, if I remember correctly, would get on the skin and leave it darkened upon contact with UV light for days. Just like the Tesla Coil branding, there was no pain. All the coil does is excite pigments and cause some darkening, rosacea, and whatnot. It’s not ionizing radiation; there’s no risk of cancers. It doesn’t hurt. And it fades in a few days. It’s less dangerous than using a Sharpie, and that’s just alcohol and charcoal. Now what happened because of some messy science with silly side effects? Did I get seriously injured? Nope. I became a double major in mechanical engineering and chemistry at Ohio State. Is branding kids alright? Maybe not, but even if that’s the common consensus, it’s not as bad as prison

    • JW

      you clearly did not read the article or listen to the news report. Sit down and cool your jets. It’s parents like you who are the reason kids dont pay attention in class. every class has to be from a book and nothing can happen except lectures. let the kids get hands on and experience things. so they got a little burn. big deal. he didn’t force them to do it or threaten them with failing grades if they didn’t do it. the kids obviously wanted to do it to experience it. nothing wrong with that.

  • Glen

    So what!! They volunteered. People getting their panties in a twist over nothing. He was showing his class how science works.

  • keandrah

    They send home permission slips for my kids to watch a movie at school. So i’m pretty sure this experiment warranted a permission slip…:)

    • Kc

      Why is he dumb? Because he asked for volunteers? Because he taught science in a fun way? Because the ‘burn’ faded within days?
      It sounds similar to getting a henna tattoo, to me. I wish more of my teachers taught subjects in a fun way, maybe i wouldn’t have been so mind-numbingly bored with school. This makes me think that my science teacher, who taught us to make candy, would have gotten outrage from parents because we came home with a slight sugar rush.
      No harm, no foul.

  • Jim M

    This teacher was using applied science. Reading science from a book or seeing a video is boring, he got the students involved and interested in learning. A tattoo has additives and is permanent, this wasn’t permanent. This was a burn that was only strong enough to leave a mark. The students volunteered, yes they’re probably all under 18, but no drugs or toxins were involved and the students could’ve easily backed out of the experiment. Back in the 80’s, my older brother learned how fireworks were made, he was in 7th or 8th grade. He tried making them in living room a couple days later. Not the wisest move, the worst thing to happen was that he burned a gaping hole in the carpet by the door. It could’ve been worse, but it wasn’t thank goodness. Now, he’s a pharmacologist, for those who don’t know what a pharmacologist is, they’re the ones who actually manufacture the medication you take. He’s making bank and enjoys the work, not to mention he’s helping a lot of people. What’s a small burn mark that’s temporary? An invitation to learn more and be interested in learning!

  • Stephanie Hart

    i would have volunteered, and my mom and dad would have thought it was par for the course LOL they wouldn’t get mad, unless I got a “C” in the class of course, that, they would get mad at :) Everyone gets all excited about things these days…

  • Jim M

    The parents that are griping are probably the type that hold their 16 year old YOUNG ADULTS hands when they cross the street. These are adolescents, them getting a burn that leaves a temporary mark for the sake of actually enjoying learning, that should be the least of your worries. I’d have a problem if these kids were in middle school, but we’re talking about people that will be out of high school and in the real world in a matter of a couple years! Get a grip! I guess classes like wood shop, auto shop, and welding shouldn’t be allowed either, I mean the kids could get hurt right?!!!

    • JW

      in wood shop they could get a splinter and need a band-aid for the boo-boo. HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN 1000 WAYS TO DIE?????

  • PavePusher

    Ummmm…. how is this accomplished? I know what a Tesla coil is and does, but I was unaware that the arcs could be guided that precisely.

    Please do some better reporting with some actual information.

    • Kc

      Why? What was the harm? No pain, no permanate marks, the kids volunteered for it and it had no negative effects whatsoever. And you’d have a teacher who actually got the kids interested in science, get fired over it?
      You don’t think that is over reacting a bit?
      I think its sad that so many engaging teachers get attacked for such minor things.

  • Science Dan

    Seriously? This demonstration has been done in physics and chemistry classrooms for DECADES, and nobody has ever been injured or killed from it. It’s totally harmless. The situation is being extremely over-exaggerated. You run the tip of the coil across the skin like a pencil, in fact it feels like you’re just being written on with a pen, and it leaves a light marking, essentially tanning the skin the point has touched, that goes away within 24 hours. While the use of the word “burned” is technically scientifically accurate in this case, it isn’t a but n in the sense that you think it is, people. Chill out. Go take a science class at your local community college.

  • Mr. S

    I highly HIGHLY doubt these kids were harmed in any way shape or for. A Tesla Coil arc only takes the dead skin off your arm, it’s like using your fingernail on your skin to write something. Had the first kid got harmed I can promise NO other kids would have stepped up to have it done too.

    This is another example of parents flipping out over nothing, looking for a lawsuit and looking for some attention in hopes their “tragedy” goes viral.

    Some people need Jesus in their lives.

  • Victoria Nelson

    Sounds like some parents got their panties in a bunch! We need science teachers that can spark interest in their students! He seems to be one of them.

  • vickyk1

    Flashback…TOTALY agree with you! Sounds like some parents got their panties in a bunch. this is a teacher that has made a lasting impression on his students…HA.. Besides the bad pun, these kind of teachers make learning fun and it sounds like no lasting damage was done.

  • lbroskay

    I don’t understand why the science teacher didn’t just send permission slips home prior to this experiment to get the parents’ approval for all the students who were interested. In my daughter’s middle school, they sent a note home telling us they were doing an experiment with Oreos, and that they needed the my permission to allow her to eat the Oreo once it was finished. An Oreo!! This is tattooing their body with cauterization, albeit temporary. To protect the students and himself, he should have sent a permission slip. Or just did the experiment on himself. Bad judgement on his part, in my opinion.

  • Katie

    To be perfectly honest if I had been in that class I would have volunteered too. I love the idea. Plus if it leave no permanent marks or cause pain then what is the harm? Its cool and scientific and out their. In my science class our teacher had a ball thingie (its been a few years so I do not remember the name, I apologize for that) and had students volunteer to touch it and get shocked. it stung a little but it was fun and taught us different forms of energy. Kids kept lining up to do it again and again. One girl did it so much her hair stood on end for a few minutes. No one got hurt and no one cared.

  • jim

    “Birr says the marks have since faded.”

    How were they ‘burned’ if the marks faded??

    I suspect the teacher knew he wasn’t doing anything permanent.

    No harm, no foul.

  • terigo

    Oh lets take all the fun out of learning guys. Seriously? Arrested? If anything they should have just looked into it maybe given him some weeks out payed or unpayed but they took that way too far. The kids knew what was going to happen and consciously made that decision. No one got hurt and he left a positive message physically and mentally, why in the world punish a teacher for doing his job. How about you arrest all of the other teachers who just hand out paper work, tell you to read the book and give tests disregarding the fact that they haven’t properly done their job. In the future if any teacher is thinking of doing something cool in class I guess you should send 3 or 4 notes home a week ahead of time to all the parents so they have no excuse to be ignorant.

  • Jacob Thompson

    Here is a quote from the same article but a different news source:

    “Almost every student did it, and everyone was laughing when they went up there,” she Cheyenne Ward, a junior at South Salem and aid in Dunfer’s class, according to the Statesman Journal. “Nobody was sad or upset. It didn’t hurt at all.”

    Does that sound malicious? Or painful? Or wrong at all? Staring at phone screens all days probably causes more damage.
    (source: http://www.cnet.com/news/teacher-arrested-after-burning-i-love-mom-into-students-arm-with-tesla-coil/)

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