Attack On Chinese Kindergartners

Several kindergarteners were hospitalized after a brutal chemical attack.

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Several kindergarteners were hospitalized after a brutal chemical attack.

Andrea Castaneda, Staff Writer

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 It seems like a day no different than any other day in China. Students begin to fill up their classrooms one by one. Each student walks in greeting their teacher and wearing a young, innocent smile. The students take their seats, class commences, and a passionate teacher emerges, ready to educate their students about the world around them. The students’ eyes sparkle in astonishment, and soon hands are raised with questions about the exciting topic. As the day progresses, lunch is soon in view, and the students are eager to talk to their friends about their day. Lunch arrives in the classrooms, and the room is soon filled with laughter, yelling, and happiness. Children are goofing off, enjoying this time amongst each other. Lunch is soon over, and the day goes on as normal, but nothing could prepare them for what is  to come.

A man with hollow and unforgiving eyes, completely covered in black, walks into a classroom of young children. The children, polite and innocent and ready to greet the man, are instead splashed with a burning chemical. The backpack pressure sprayer on the man’s back frightens the young children as well as his intimidating aura. Soon the room is filled with fearful yelling and screams of agony. Children are running, trying to get away, only to be blocked and attacked by the strange man spraying caustic chemicals into their faces. Some children hold hands and hug each other out of fear. Others are on the floor, crying and screaming while holding onto their burnt flesh. The teacher, in a state of panic, tries to get all the children to safety, but is stopped. The attacker holds onto the teacher with his rough hands, and the teacher catches a glimpse of the attacker’s face, his twisted, sinister smile. Once the room is in a state of chaos with tears, screams, and panic, he leaves only go to the next classroom.

That was the scene Monday, Nov. 11 at 3:30 p.m. when 51 Chinese kindergartners and three teachers were attacked with a corrosive chemical at Dongcheng Kindergarten located in Yunnan Province, according to the official state news agency.

In the next 24 hours, all the victims of the attack were hospitalized. Only two students were left with severe injuries, but were not considered life-threatening, while the three teachers and the remaining 48 students obtained minor to moderate injuries, as reported by the South China Morning-Post.

After the attack, police arrested a 23-year-old male of the surname Kong. Kong invaded the school by cutting wires and climbing the school wall. He then sprayed the victims with sodium hydroxide. The police stated Kong did it “as revenge on society,” Xinhua news service reported. 

According to The Washington Post, police used the social media account WeChat to post the following about Kong: “His parents divorced during his childhood and the lack of family warmth resulted in psychological distortion, plus his work and life were unsatisfactory, which created a pessimistic mentality and thought about retaliating against society.”

Mr. Jeffery Baird , a psychology teacher in Round Lake High School, thinks that mental unrest could be a reason behind such a horrific attack. “ Usually I think these ideas begin to form when people are ostracized and feel like they do not belong, probably followed by rumination over these cognitions, but I think this is entirely dependent on the person and the situation,” he said.

Baird went on to say that the “lack of family warmth” could have also led to Kong’s actions.  “I believe that humans develop properly when they are raised in a home with both of their parents because both parents serve different roles in the child’s life,” he said.  “I don’t think all families that go through divorces have severe issues, but I do believe that children in homes with both their parents have a better chance at happiness and success.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sodium hydroxide, which is used to make products including soaps and explosives, is very corrosive and can irritate the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane. 

According to Dr. Hector Rasgado-Flores a professor at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science: “Sodium hydroxide is a base, in other words, it has a pH greater than 7, and since it is very caustic it can damage the cells and tissues through burning and can lead to producing irreversible damage. If exposed to sodium hydroxide, it must be removed immediately, as it is a strong base; it can be neutralized with an acid or diluted with water.” 

In order to protect the privacy of the victims, the Chinese media is not providing names and details to the public, so the extent of the injuries and conditions of the patients is not fully known beyond the fact that none were life threating. But it is possible to imagine what the victims are going through based on the experiences of Carmen Tarleton and Kenneth O’Brien.

Carmen Tarleton was doused with sodium hydroxide by her ex-husband, Herbert Rodgers, leaving her with 92% of her body with burns, and she went blind. When police arrived, they found Tarleton on the floor, her face distorted and her skin turning brown while trying to crawl into the shower to wash it off, According to the Los Angeles Times, which published a story about Tarleton’s attack, a burn expert expressed that sodium hydroxide burns are among the most painful, destructive, and difficult to treat, leaving victims scarred for life.

Christopher King doused Kenneth O’Brien in sodium hydroxide at their workplace. Kenneth felt as if his face, mouth, and eyes were on fire, including other body parts. When being interviewed by news station KTNV Las Vegas, he kept his face partly covered saying, “It’s ugly. I don’t want to scare people,” 

Baird states, “ I don’t think we can be sure how it will affect the victims at this time. I think PTSD is very likely, but only time will tell, because some of them might recover and continue to live just fine, we just don’t know yet.”

This is not China’s first school attack. There has been multiple attacks over the past years.

On September 2019, eight children died and two were injured at the hands of a 40-year-old outside an elementary school in Hubei Province on the first day of the semester, the police state. Last January , 20 children were injured by a 49-year-old man with a hammer inside a primary school in Heilongjiang Province, officials state. On April 2018, 9 children were killed and one injured by a man wielding a knife outside a middle school in Shaanxi Province, authorities said.

The attacks come amidst a lot of political unrest in China. It is unclear if some of the attacks are related to political protests.