The shocking headlines out of Waycross, Georgia-- 3rd-graders plotted to attack teacher, brought knife, handcuffs --lowered the bar on school violence and raised the alarm among parents, teachers, psychologists and just about anyone with an opinion about the country’s future.
The third grade plotters—nine students between the ages of 8 and 10—were allegedly readying a revenge assault against a teacher who had given one of the children a time-out for standing on a chair.
Tipped off by a student, police seized the kids’ menacing arsenal at school, including a steak knife, duct tape, handcuffs, and a heavy paperweight. The teacher specialized in learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, though it’s not known if any of the plotters had those diagnoses.
The sophistication of the plan—with kid-assigned jobs of covering classroom windows and cleaning up after the attack—stunned even the police.
“We did not hear anybody say they intended to kill her,” the police chief said, “but could they have accidentally killed her? Absolutely.”
The big question—who or what was responsible for the children’s shocking behavior?—was debated across the U.S. on message boards and Main Street.
The culprits ranged from peer pressure to parenting, with violent video games and television getting much of the blame. “Kids naturally think now that the solution to everything is to shoot someone like they see on TV,” one comment read. “I weep for the future of America.”
For the present, local authorities are uncertain exactly how to proceed. In Georgia, children under 13 can’t be charged with a crime. Being declared “delinquent” by a judge may be the only legal penalty, but the state doesn’t have detention facilities for third-graders.
Tell us what you think. Given the restrictions with the law, how do you make punishment for third graders fit the crime? How much responsibility do their parents bear? And what about the rest of us—should we also be accountable as members of society?