There was plenty of gallows-type humor around my school this morning. A lot of it went something like this: "Sure am glad I'm not teaching in Georgia," or, "Be careful or they'll transfer you to a district in Waycross." This was our friendly little teacher way of making light of the plot at Center Elementary School in Waycross, Georgia where nine children, ages eight to ten, were apparently angry after the teacher disciplined one of the students for standing on a chair. The students brought a crystal paperweight, a steak knife with a broken handle, steel handcuffs and other items as part of a plan to attack their third grade teacher.
Most of us could take solace in the notion that our students are generally less proactive than that. When they act, it is generally on poorly controlled impulse, and the line of cause and effect is pretty easy to trace. Police in Waycross said the plot had been organized enough that some students were assigned specific roles such as covering classroom windows and cleaning up any mess. The idea of my kids working together like that gives me hope for their future in cooperative groups - another nervous giggle.
"The reality is it is highly unlikely they would have been successful at this," Dr. Louis Kraus, a child psychiatry expert at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago said. "Even if it had begun, it's unclear whether they actually would have followed through with it." Most premeditated acts of student violence in schools usually don't occur until high school, Kraus said. Younger children have been known to bring knives or other weapons to school, experts said, but often it's more a matter of showing off or acting tough than part of a deliberate assault attempt.
While I agree with Dr. Kraus for the most part, I confess that I am still constantly amazed at the level of cruelty that even some of our youngest children are capable of. For now it makes a great story, and it's sure to invite plenty of public debate about school security, and whether or not we should be serving kids chocolate milk at lunch. The happy end to the story is that no one ended up getting hurt, and while it may not be very funny, at least it's a relief.