Boy, 15, arrested for 'setting teacher's hair and clothes on FIRE'

Boy, 15, arrested for 'setting teacher's hair and clothes on FIRE' as she stood with her back to the class

A Tennessee high school student was arrested after police say he tried to set his teacher on fire in school.

Investigators say the incident happened just before 11am Monday at West High School in Knoxville as Gabriela Penalba, 23, was teaching a class.

According to police, Penalba had turned her back to her students when a 15-year-old boy came up behind her with a cigarette lighter and set her shirt and hair ablaze.

Other students rush to the teacher's aid and helped extinguish the flames, saving Penalba from burns to her body, the station

When the 23-year-old woman, who teaches science and physiology, left the classroom, police say the teenage suspect attempted to dispose of the lighter by tossing it out the window.

When officers responded to the school, the boy fled but was apprehended a short time later on a nearby greenway.

According to, the teen allegedly admitted to setting Penalba ablaze when questioned by police. The motive behind the fiery attack remains unclear at this time.

The student, who is not being named because of his age, has been charged in juvenile court with aggravated assault and evading arrest.

MailOnline reached out to the Knox County Schools for additional information on the case Wednesday, but no one was available for comment due to the Thanksgiving holiday.