US teacher foils plot by first-graders to kill classmate with poison

Winterberry Charter School in Alaska, United States.
Winterberry Charter School in Alaska, United States.PHOTO: Q13 FOX

Officials at an elementary school in the United States have reportedly uncovered a plot among three first-grade pupils to kill a classmate using poison.

The attempt in the state of Alaska was foiled when another pupil overheard the alleged plotters discussing their plan last Tuesday (March 22) and immediately alerted a teacher, Anchorage school district spokesman Heidi Embley told the Alaska Dispatch News.

Given the pupils' young age, staff at the Winterberry Charter School are unclear if the youngsters fully understood their actions. First-graders are usually six or seven years old.

"The age is one of the things that is most surprising to people who were hearing about this - the kids are at such a young age," said Ms Embley.

"Without revealing any information as to what occurred during the investigation, there are a lot of conversations to get an understanding of what actually happened, how the students were feeling."

The plan hatched by the trio apparently involved using silica gel - a substance commonly found inside sealed food bags that is designed to reduce spoilage - to poison their classmate.

Full details of the plan were not disclosed, but it appears that the pupils had overlooked one key detail: silica gel is not toxic.

"The students had taken some plastic packets that are inside of a sealed food bag, meant for preservation of the food and say 'do not consume' on the packaging, and brought them to school with the intent of putting them in another student's lunch," Anchorage police spokesman Jennifer Castro told local news affiliate KTVA.

She said the children had thought the packets contained poison, and the plot was not actually carried out.

Officials said the school had spoken to all three pupils and declined to file charges.

The pupils could still be expelled from Winterberry, Ms Embley noted, adding that the incident is "out of the ordinary".

She said a letter to parents was sent out the same day the plot was discovered, stressing that safety is the school's "top priority" and that the school district takes all threats to student safety "very seriously."

Ms Castro said the police were thankful for the pupil who had alerted the school to the "potentially harmful situation".

She added: "It is important for parents to talk with their children about speaking up when they learn of something that could potentially harm others."