A kindergarten teacher found guilty of killing one of her students, as well as injuring 24 others, was executed this past week by a court in central China. In 2019, Wang Yun was charged with poisoning the children using a toxic dose of sodium nitrite and was later sentenced to death in September 2020.
The 39-year-old kindergarten teacher first purchased the chemical compound on March 27, 2019, after an argument with a colleague at Mengmeng Pre-school Education over “student management,” CBS News reported.
The following morning, Wang laced the children’s “eight treasures porridge” (a traditional Chinese rice pudding) with sodium nitrate. The afflicted students were later admitted to the hospital with distressing symptoms like vomiting and fainting spells.
According to Reuters, two dozen of Wang’s young victims recovered from the mass poisoning. One child died from multiple organ failure in January 2020, despite undergoing ten months of medical treatment after the attack.
A yellowish-white, odorless powder, sodium nitrite, is often safely used in small quantities for household purposes. Consuming an excessive amount of the chemical can be lethal, and emergency responders recommend calling 911 immediately to prevent the worst outcome. Nitrite poisoning is characterized by dizziness, confusion, and a “blue-gray discoloration of the skin.”
The kindergartners were not Wang’s first brush with poisoning. Journalists at The Independent informed that the 39-year-old teacher had attempted to poison her husband with the same substance that she purchased online two years before the tragedy at the preschool. The man survived with only mild injuries. Whether the intent was to kill or only harm her victims, Wang’s objective remains unknown.
The incident took place in Jiaozuo, a city in the central Henan province of China, but made its way to international headlines. Public outrage spread quickly throughout the vast country, prompting a surge in concern over violent attacks targetting children at schools.
Although the teacher appealed her sentence, the No 1 Intermediate Court in Jiaozuo upheld the guilty verdict and informed the public of Wang’s execution last Thursday. In a notice posted outside, the court described Wang’s actions as “despicable and vicious” and decreed that the “consequences of her crimes were extremely serious, and she deserves to be severely punished.”
In its 2022 Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions, Amnesty International maintains that China is the world’s most prolific enforcer of the death penalty. Although the actual figure remains a state secret, the current estimate is a number well into the thousands—more than the rest of the globe combined.
The poisoning case at the Henan province preschool is a relatively recent example of an ongoing trend in China, where violent aggressors go after young children at schools. Since 2010, Chinese authorities have attempted to curtail this uncoordinated series of attacks, which are reportedly perpetrated by “mentally disturbed” individuals with grudges against society. Since private gun ownership is outlawed in China, these attacks are often carried out with knives or homemade explosives.
On December 14, 2012, in the hours before the Sandy Hook massacre took place in Newton, Connecticut, a knife-wielding attacker embarked on a stabbing spree that left 22 primary students and one elderly woman injured—also in the Henan province of China.
Most recently, on July 10, six people were killed in a knife attack on an elementary school in Lianjiang, a city in the southeastern province of Guangdong. State media reported that three children, one teacher, and two parents had died, with another person injured by the 25-year-old assailant. Videos that allegedly depicted the crime scene have been removed from Chinese social media platforms to prevent future copycat attacks.
The BBC reported that a minimum of 17 knife attacks have taken place across schools and universities in China since 2010, leaving at least 90 dead and over 400 people injured. For comparison, the U.S. has experienced 386 school shootings in the years since Columbine, with 140 people killed or injured in just 2022.
This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.