04/02/2008

Ga. police: 3rd-graders plotted teacher attack

The Associated Press

WAYCROSS, Ga. — A group of children ages 8 to 10 apparently were mad at their teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, authorities say.

That led the third-graders, as many as nine boys and girls, to plot an attack on the teacher at Center Elementary School in south Georgia.

Police Chief Tony Tanner said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious with a glass paperweight, bind her with handcuffs and duct tape and then stab her with a broken steak knife.

The scheme involved a division of roles, Tanner said. One child's job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, and another was supposed to clean up after the attack.

"We're not sure at this point in the investigation how many of the students actually knew the intent was to hurt the teacher," Tanner said.

School officials had alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had taken a weapon to school.

Tanner said the teacher told detectives the children weren't known as troublemakers.

"You can't dismiss it," Tanner said. "But because they are kids, they may have thought this was like a cartoon — we do whatever and then she stands up and she's OK. That's a hard call."

The purported target teaches third-grade students with learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, delayed development and hyperactivity, friends and parents said.

Two of the students were arrested on juvenile charges Tuesday and a third arrest was expected. District Attorney Rick Currie said other students told investigators they didn't take the plot seriously or insisted they had decided not to participate.

"Some of the kids said, `We thought they were just kidding,'" Currie said. "Another child was supposed to bring a toy pistol, and he told a detective he didn't bring it because he thought he would get in trouble."

Currie said the children are too young to be charged as adults, and probably too young to be sentenced to a youth detention center.

"We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her, but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely," Tanner said. "We feel like if they weren't interrupted, there would have been an attempt. Would they have been successful? We don't know."

Currie said he decided to seek juvenile charges against two girls, ages 9 and 10, who brought the knife and paperweight and an 8-year-old boy who brought tape. He said they face charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and both girls are being charged with taking weapons to school.

Nine children have been given discipline up to and including long-term suspension, said Theresa Martin, spokeswoman for the Ware County school system. She would not be more specific but said none of the children had been back to school since the case came to light.

School system policy says any student who brings "anything reasonably considered to be a weapon" is to be expelled for at least the remainder of the school year.

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