Officials in Georgia have thwarted a plot by a group of third-grade special education students to kill their teacher.
Officials at the Center Elementary School in Waycross, Ga., learned of the plot on March 28, when a student told authorities about the plan before the start of the school day, the Waycross Journal-Herald reports.
The plot by as many as nine boys and girls was a serious threat, Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said Tuesday.
The students allegedly brought to school a broken steak knife, a roll of duct tape, handcuffs, ribbon and a crystal paperweight in a bid to kill their teacher, Belle Carter, the paper reports.
"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."
The children, ages 8 and 9, were apparently mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, Tanner said.
"It’s our understanding that she did in fact discipline one of the students, and they did not like it, he told FOX News. "After that, she began to plot revenge on the teacher."
Tanner told FOX News not all of the students were in on all the details of the allegedly plot.
"We believe that some of them knew the entire plot and some of them were ... just asked to bring other items in but they might not have realized the entire plot," he said.
Three of the students have been identified as ringleaders and will likely face prosecution under an unruly charge, because of their age, Tanner told FOX News.
They could be expelled, but a prosecutor said they are too young to be charged with a crime under Georgia law.
School officials spoke with parents about the incident on Monday, the paper said.
Theresa Martin, spokeswoman for the Ware County school system, said nine children had been given discipline up to and including long-term suspension. She would not be more specific. She said none of the children had been back to school since the case came to light.
The alleged target is a veteran educator who teaches third-grade students with a range of learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, delayed development and hyperactivity, friends and parents said.
Tanner said the scheme involved a division of roles. One child's job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, he said. Another was supposed to clean up after the attack.
He said the class had not been problematic in the past.
"I don't think that there's been any disciplinary problems that have occurred in that classroom of a substantial nature," he told FOX News.
The parents of the students have cooperated with investigators, who aren't allowed to question the children without their parents' or guardians' consent, he said. Authorities have withheld the children's names.
Police expected to forward the results of their investigation to prosecutors, Tanner said.
Children in Georgia can't be charged with a crime unless they are at least 13, District Attorney Rick Currie said.
Martin, told The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, Fla., that administrators would follow school system policy and state law in disciplining the students.
"From what I understand, they were considered pretty good kids," Martin said. "But we have to take this seriously, whether they were serious or not about carrying this through, and that's what we did."
Four mothers of other third-grade students at Center Elementary called for the immediate expulsion of the suspected plotters.
Stacy Carter and Deana Hiott both cited school system policy stating that any student who brings "anything reasonably considered to be a weapon" is to be expelled for at least the remainder of the school year.
"We don't want our children around them," Carter told the Times-Union. "The one with the knife could have stabbed my child or someone else's child at lunch or out on the playground."
"This is an isolated incident, an aberration. ... We have good kids," Center Principal Angie Coleman told the newspaper.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.