"Boy on Fire"
L&O, Episode 20.14
Production number: 20012
First aired: 1 March 2010
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Teleplay By
Luke Schelhaas & Matthew McGough

Story By
Ed Zuckerman & Matthew McGough

Directed By
Rose Troche


The body of a charter school student from a rough neighborhood is found beaten and then set on fire.

When the police are led to a video of the event, they discover that four people in the video may be in league with a surprising collaborator and the evidence later leads to corruption by the school's principal.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast


  • Some aspects of this episode appear to be ripped from the headlines of the Houston Independent School District scandal. The district's schools were widely praised for lowering dropout rates and improving test scores, and this achievement was used to promote then-President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act." It turned out that schools in this district had inflated test scores by keeping low-achieving students from taking the tests. They also reported (falsely) that students who dropped out had transferred to other schools or received a GED to prevent them from being classified as dropouts.


[After the discovery of Cesar Ramirez's body]
Lupo: School ID to Sunrise Academy. It's a few blocks that way. One of those charter schools.
Bernard: Trying to help kids in the lousy neighborhoods. Give them a better education to break the cycle of violence.
Lupo: Looks like they've got a little ways to go.
Principal Woodside: Yes I've heard about the murder, everyone's talking about it.
Bernard: Anyone talking about who did it?
Principal Woodside: Most of these kids worship at the Church of Don't Snitch.
Principal Woodside: Charter schools, magnet schools, they take all our best students, and then we're blamed for having the worst. Kids from poverty, from broken families, a hundred years of neglect and we have to get them ready for college with just a few hours a day. Some charter school that gets 20 million dollars from Bill Gates and they get a few students into Dartmouth, it makes front page news. You want to know what the real success stories are? When a student from Aaron Burr who couldn't even read in the ninth grade manages to graduate and get a job in an auto-parts store instead of becoming a drug dealer. That's a success story, our success story. But no one cares. No one wants to hear about it.
[After Principal Woodside is arrested]
McCoy: Grand larceny? What did she steal?
Cutter: Well, how about a decent education for her students? Their integrity, their potential?
McCoy: I don't think there's a law against stealing potential.

Background information & notes

  • Since "The Jay Leno Show" was canceled and all the 10:00 p.m. weekday timeslots were available, the series was moved again to Mondays only this time at 10:00 p.m.

Previous episode:
"Steel-Eyed Death"
"Boy on Fire"
Law & Order
Season 20
Next episode:
"Brilliant Disguise"
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