Recess ended before they could include him in their game of Twister.
They already had four players. They would add him in the next round, but the bell rang. The upset, excluded child said to his young classmates: I want to bring a gun to school and shoot and kill all of you.
Monica Wilder Brown, a parent of one of those children, received the call that afternoon from the assistant principal about the incident. She and her husband were so concerned they went to the school and met with the principal the same afternoon.
Brown kept wiping away tears during the meeting. "I'm sorry. This is not like me," she said.
It was a day in this same suburban St. Louis school district more than 30 years ago that changed how safe she could feel at school. She had sat next to him on the bus that morning. He was her friend. They argued about his bag taking up too much space.
In that bag, 14-year-old David Lawler was carrying the gun and ammunition he used at Parkway South Junior High on Jan. 20, 1983. He killed one student, wounded another and then shot and killed himself. Brown remembers the confusion at lunch. She saw reporters swarming around the school through the giant windows.
"It was a pretty terrible day," Brown said. She's blocked out most of it. But this threat against her daughter reopened those old wounds.
How was the school going to keep her daughter safe? She wanted specific answers about how the child would be disciplined. School officials could not give her those answers because of student privacy laws. The child was not in school the next day.
"I feel like he should have been kicked out of the district," Brown said.
Dissatisfied with the response at the school, she called Chelsea Watson, the assistant superintendent of student services. Watson explained that any threat is taken very seriously. School officials consider the child's age, previous discipline history and any disability involved. They investigate the specifics of the situation, have conversations with the student and parents, and try to determine if the child has access to a gun or a plan in place.
"We are seeing students with more emotional issues at school," Watson said. School officials are trained on how to monitor these children, to teach character and coping skills, to create safety plans when any kind of threat is made. When a child returns to school, he may be required to check in and have his belongings searched before the day starts, to talk to a counselor regularly, walk to classes separately, and be monitored at lunch and on the bus.
The school has to abide by disability laws that protect students if their behavior is a manifestation of a disability, she explained. And neither she nor any school official could share any specifics about another student's history or discipline.
"Oh, how quickly we forget," Brown said to her. "David Lawler."
"Oh, no," Watson said. "I don't forget. I was a student there, too."
They had attended the same school that day.
Brown learned that the child at her daughter's school made another comment to her once he returned. He blamed her and her friends for getting him in trouble. He wanted to talk to them after class, Brown said. She kept her daughter home from school the next day. The other child was out the rest of the week.
"I was afraid," she said. She was trying to figure out whether to transfer her daughter to another school.
Her panic is understandable, especially given the horror she experienced as an adolescent. After watching the news from too many mass shootings like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and, most recently, a high school near Portland, Ore., most parents take any rumors or threats seriously. When the children who have lived through these school shootings grow up, how do we expect them to respond if their children are threatened?
And would it make society safer if schools could simply expel any child who makes such a threat? Where would these children go?
In the meantime, Brown is keeping her daughter at the same school, where she believes the school will keep a close eye on her classmate. She worries about what may happen when they go to middle or high school.
A few weeks later, her daughter saw the same classmate falling behind during a race at school. She walked back toward him.
"Do you want me to walk with you?" she asked the boy whose words had rattled her mother's world.
The child held up his hand to her, she told her mom, as if to say, "I can't talk to you."
Aisha Sultan is a St. Louis-based journalist who studies parenting in the digital age. On Twitter: @AishaS.