A 13-year-old boy in central China died when a classmate threw a 30-centimeter knife during a physical education class on Tuesday, reported The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication. The fatal incident took place at around 11:23 a.m. at Quanfeng Middle School in Changning, Hunan province. Later that evening, local police released a notice describing the death of the student, surnamed Guo, as an accident.
According to the police investigation, Guo and his classmate, surnamed Li, were chasing each other around during their P.E. class when Li waved the knife, causing it to fly out of its scabbard and strike Guo in the back. The school’s account, too, said that Li was playing with a knife that slipped out of his hand and went into Guo’s back. Li immediately removed the blade, but despite first aid efforts, Guo did not survive.
A video published by The Paper shows that the knife in its rounded scabbard resembles a stick, but no explanation is given for why it was present at the school.
However, after viewing the surveillance camera footage, Guo’s family said they believe Li threw the knife intentionally. “In the video, it’s obvious that [Li] did it on purpose,” Guo’s father, Guo Junrong, told The Paper on Wednesday. “Why is it being said that the knife came out of the scabbard because it was waved around?” He also questioned how a deadly weapon was allowed into the school in the first place.
Online commenters, too, have voiced concerns about the school’s apparently lax security. Peng Guoqing, the principal, declined Sixth Tone’s interview request.
Established in 1997, Quanfeng Middle School is a private school with around 2,000 students. According to The Paper, the school offered compensation of 790,000 yuan ($120,000) to the family of the deceased, and as of Wednesday morning, 100,000 yuan had been transferred to them.
Neither the local education bureau nor the police could be reached for comment on Thursday, but an employee at the education bureau’s complaint department said he had not heard of any complaints about Quanfeng Middle School in the semester that he has been taking calls.
This case has spurred further discussion about knife control on campus, following a fatal case in another middle school in Hunan province last month in which a 16-year-old student stabbed his teacher with a switchblade — a controlled weapon, according to a 2007 notice from the Ministry of Public Security.
The Public Security Administration Punishments Law forbids bringing controlled weapons into public venues, though offenders under the age of 14 are exempt from punishment.
In November 2016, nine central departments released guidelines concerning campus violence in primary and middle schools that banned dangerous items such as controlled knives. The guidelines also encouraged schools to arrange surveillance and schoolyard supervision.
Dai Tao, a criminal lawyer at Yingke Law Firm in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, told Sixth Tone that police conduct routine inspections for knives in public spaces, such as train stations and airports, though the responsibility for inspections in schools typically falls on campus security departments.
“For students in middle school, their self-discipline and ability to identify danger is relatively low, and they may feel curious and excited [about knives],” said Dai. He added that both parents and teachers should pay more attention to educating children about personal safety, and be on the lookout for violent tendencies.
Last week, another teenager in Hunan province died following a brawl in a vocational school dormitory, prompting calls for tougher penalties for juvenile offenders.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: Children run around on a school playground in Chongqing, March 12, 2008. VCG)