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Alaska first-graders suspended for allegedly plotting to poison classmate

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(NBC News) - Three first-graders at an Alaska charter school have been suspended for allegedly plotting to poison a classmate, according to their principal.

The girls at Winterberry Charter School in Anchorage allegedly planned to use silica gel packets — commonly found in pre-packaged food and medicine bottles to keep moisture away — to kill the student, officials told NBC affiliate KTUU.

"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," Winterberry Principal Shanna Mall wrote in an email to parents on March 22.

The scheme was foiled when another student heard about it and alerted administrators, Jennifer Castro, spokeswoman for the Anchorage Police Department, told the station.

"We're grateful that that student was able to speak up and obviously at such a young age," Castro said. "The important lesson here is to really teach your kids if they hear something like this, something where someone intends to do harm to someone else, they should tell someone that they trust right away."

While silica gel is non-toxic, the tiny beads of which it is comprised can get lodged in the throat and pose a choking hazard, especially to young children, according to the Carolinas Poison Center.

Winterberry is an "arts-integrated K-8 public school inspired by Waldorf educational methods," according to its website. Waldorf teaching is a holistic approach to education that de-emphasizes standardized tests, instead incorporating the arts and imagination.

The school has 228 students, with a waitlist of more than 400, according to the Anchorage School District.

The students will return to class after their suspension, Mall told KTUU.

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