Teacher arrested after burning 'I love mom' into kid's arm with Tesla coil

Technically Incorrect: In something of a science experiment, an Oregon teacher shows kids how to mark their skin. One parent complains.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A slightly larger Tesla coil. Wolfgang5600/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

If you're a science teacher, keeping kids interested isn't exactly easy.

Kids are a collection of often random chemicals that clash inside their bodies like vehicles in a summer blockbuster.

How far, though, can teachers go to make science amusing? I only ask because of an Oregon teacher who just got arrested.

Samuel Dufner thought he'd liven up a science class at South Salem High School in Oregon. So, as the Associated Press reports, he explained to the kids last Thursday that a Tesla coil could actually burn a mark on their skin.

A Tesla coil, invented by the great man himself in 1891, is a high voltage transformer. It produces high-frequency alternating current electricity and these days is often used more in entertainment spectacles. You know, the flashes you see, behind -- I imagine -- Criss Angel at one of his shows.

Perhaps Dufner is a man of democratic principles, as he asked for volunteers. He then marked one or two arms with "I love mom" and a heart, of course. Well, it's Mother's Day on Sunday, isn't it?

Of course, a parent complained.

Dufner was arrested Tuesday on two counts of criminal mistreatment. However, on Wednesday the Marion County District Attorney's office said charges had not been filed and that the investigation continues. The marks on student's arms have since faded, police told the AP.

Some students told the Statesman Journal that being marked by the Tesla coil didn't hurt.

"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."

I contacted South Salem High School to ask whether any kids were actually hurt or if any marks were permanent. The school's principal, Lara Tiffin, told me: "We do not have any details to release, because the police are investigating the situation. The police will control the release of information while the investigation is ongoing."

I wonder how many of the kids actually went home and showed off their branded arms to their moms and the moms simply said: "Aw, you do actually like me. I did wonder."

Update, 4:53 p.m. PT: Adds comment from South Salem High School.