3 Anchorage first-graders planned to poison classmate, police say

Three first-grade students at Winterberry Charter School in Anchorage planned to poison and kill another student last week, according to a letter sent to parents from the school's principal.

In the letter, Principal Shanna Mall told parents two students brought the plot to adults' attention. Mall directed questions about the incident to the Anchorage School District, which includes the charter school.

The students "shared that three students in the class were planning on using the silica gel packets (these are not actually poison, but the students believed they were) from their lunchtime seaweed to poison and kill another student," the letter says.

Mall informed parents she interviewed the students involved and the story was true. The school resource officer also spoke with the students and their guardians, she said.

The school resource officer looked into the first-graders' threat to harm another student on March 22, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

An investigation found the students took the silica packets, which say "do not consume," and brought them to school intending to put them in the student's lunch, Castro said. The plot was not carried out, she said.

No criminal charges were made, Castro said.


However, "All three students received significant consequences," Mall said.

What that punishment entails is unclear. ASD spokeswoman Heidi Embley said she could not detail what discipline occurred, but the steps taken start at the school level and the school district assists as needed.

The students could be expelled from Winterberry, Embley said.

The incident is out of the ordinary, Embley said. She could not recall a similar event.

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

School psychologists were involved in those conversations to determine if the students fully understood their actions, she said, adding the school district takes every threat to student safety seriously and works to make sure there are no ongoing threats.

Mall encouraged parents to speak with their children about what happened.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.