updated 12/28/2007 6:52:34 PM ET 2007-12-28T23:52:34

The 2006 fire that badly damaged the high school in this east-central Louisiana town had nothing to do with the racial tension that led to a civil rights demonstration, a law enforcement official said Friday.

The fire was set by people who wanted to destroy bad grade records, LaSalle Parish Sheriff-elect Scott Franklin said. Six males, including three juveniles, were arrested Thursday and face aggravated arson counts. Two other suspects are being sought, he said.

"The arson fire at Jena High School had nothing to do with racial motivation, the Jena Six or any of the other events surrounding the school last semester," Franklin said.

The Nov. 30, 2006, fire destroyed several classrooms, offices and science labs. It happened a few months after the appearance of nooses in a campus tree — a move that resulted in the suspension of three white students — and a few days before a group of black students attacked and beat a white classmate.

The group of black students came to be known as the Jena Six after five of them were initially arrested on attempted murder charges, drawing criticism from civil rights leaders who said the charges were too harsh.

Charges in the case eventually were reduced. In September, an estimated 20,000 people demonstrated in the tiny town, one of the nation's largest civil rights demonstrations in recent memory.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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