We now know the motive behind the arson that damaged Whitwell High School just hours after the football team won their first state title. Family members tell Channel 3, 18-year-old Robert Cameron Dalton was bullied in middle and high school until he decided to be homeschooled his senior year.

Marion County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Griffith said he takes these accusations very seriously. He ordered his administration to pull any documentation of the alleged bullying for review. 

“The community, the county, the Sequatchie Valley went from one of the greatest days of school history to waking up Sunday morning to this unfortunate situation,” Dr. Griffith said.

Robert Cameron Dalton chose not to return to Whitwell High School in August when he would have started his senior year. His mother chose to homeschool the 18-year-old after she told police her son was bullied.

Dr. Griffith said he learned of the bullying allegations after Dalton was arrested and charged with setting the school on fire. He met with the high school and middle school principals, hoping to learn more.

“At this time it is still under investigation. But they have not found any statements or anything like that where it was reported,” Dr. Griffith explained.

The Marion County sheriff said the video shows Dalton inside Whitwell High School, pouring gasoline through the hallways and starting a small fire.

Dalton’s mother avoided our cameras when we went to her home to ask about the bullying. In a public Facebook post, Dalton’s mother said:

“My son is not a monster, nor am I a bad parent. He made a bad choice.  All I ask is see how you'd feel if this was your child.”

Doctor Griffith will continue to look into the bullying claims but said nothing excuses this type of behavior. He has asked the courts to forbid Dalton from visiting any county school property.

As he waits for a ruling, he is encouraging his staff to talk more openly with students about bullying.

“Prevent this; educate students, teachers and everyone about what bullying is,” Dr. Griffith added.

Dalton has no past criminal history. He is charged with arson and burglary, and he remains at the Marion County Jail.