Two third-graders in the state of Georgia were arrested on Tuesday in an alleged plot to knock their teacher unconscious and stab her with a steak knife, police said.

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A group of third-graders plotting to attack their teacher brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the task, police in Waycross, Ga., said Tuesday. ((Waycross Georgia Police Department/Associated Press))

Waycross city police Chief Tony Tanner said a group of as many as nine boys and girls were involved in the plot and had brought a broken steak knife, handcuffs and duct tape to Center Elementary School last week.

Police were first alerted about the plot on Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had brought a weapon to school.

Chief Tanner said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious with a crystal paperweight, bind her with handcuffs and tape, then stab her with a knife.

The children, ages eight to 10, were apparently upset at the teacher for scolding one of them for standing on a chair, Tanner said.

"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."

Police seized a steak knife with a broken handle, steel handcuffs, duct tape, electrical and transparent tape, ribbons and a paperweight, Tanner said.

Two students were arrested on juvenile charges on Tuesday and a third arrest was expected.

District Attorney Rick Currie said the children are too young to be charged as adults and likely too young to be sentenced to a youth detention centre.

He said he decided to seek juvenile charges against two girls, aged nine and 10, who allegedly brought the knife and paperweight to school, as well as an eight-year-old boy who allegedly brought the tape.

All three are expected to face charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and both girls were being charged with bringing weapons to school.

Nine children were disciplined by the school, with some receiving a long-term suspension, said Theresa Martin, spokeswoman for the Ware County school system. None of the children have returned to the school since the plot came to light, she said.

The purported target of the attack is a veteran teacher whose class includes students with learning disabilities such as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and delayed development, friends and parents said.

Tanner said the plot involved a division of roles, with one child assigned to cover windows so no one could see outside, then another was supposed to clean up after the attack.

"We're not sure at this point in the investigation how many of the students actually knew the intent was to hurt the teacher," Tanner said.

The students involved weren't known to be troublemakers, he said.

"You can't dismiss it," Tanner said. "But because they are kids, they may have thought this was like a cartoon — 'We do whatever and then she stands up and she's OK.' That's a hard call."

With files from the Associated Press