Richmond, Va. (AP) – Virginia teacher who authorities say was shot by a 6-year-old student According to fellow teachers and city officials, she is known to be a hardworking teacher who is dedicated to her students and passionate about the profession that runs in her family.
Former Newport News School Board member John Ely III identified the first grade teacher as 25-year-old Abby Zwerner. Authorities said Zwerner was shot Friday at Richneck Elementary School.
Police said Zwerner suffered life-threatening injuries shortly after being shot, but has since recovered and was admitted to a local hospital in stable condition.
Ely and other city officials met with teachers and the principal at the school on Friday and later went to the hospital, where they met Zwerner’s family members, including several aunts who are also teachers.
“The family were all teachers,” said Allie, who was recently elected to the Newport News City Council, adding that she was excited to have a job.
“The custodians and other teachers talked about how she’s a good teammate, she’s a team player, she loves her kids, she’s just a good teacher.”
Cindy Hurst said her 8-year-old granddaughter is still in shock from the shooting. She was in Zwerner’s class last year, and told her grandmother that she was a great teacher.
“I just hate that this happened,” Hurst told The Virginian-Pilot, “But life as we know it may never be the same – I don’t know.”
Zwerner attended James Madison University, graduating in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies and minors in Elementary Education and Music. He graduated from JMU’s College of Education in 2020 with a master’s degree in education.
JMU President Jonathan Elgar sent a message of support for Zwerner, his family, friends and fellow faculty, students and their families.
“JMU stands ready to support those affected by this incident now and in the weeks to come,” Elgar tweeted on Saturday.
Police Chief Steve Drew said the boy shot and wounded a teacher in a first-grade classroom. He was later taken into police custody. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.
Police declined to say what happened in the classroom or any other details about what happened, citing the ongoing investigation. He also declined to say how the boy got the gun or who had the weapon.
Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. Furthermore, a 6-year-old child is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if convicted.
However, a juvenile judge will have the authority to revoke parental custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.
Mayor Philip Jones would not say where the boy was being held.
“We’re making sure they have all the services they need right now,” Jones said Saturday.
Experts who study gun violence said the shooting represents a very rare event in which a young child brings a gun to school and injures a teacher.
“It’s very rare and it’s not something the legal system is really designed or designed to deal with,” said researcher David Ridman, founder of a database that tracks US school shootings back to 1970. .
He said Saturday that he knew of only three other shootings that were committed by Year 6 students during the period he studied. These include the fatal shooting of a fellow student in Michigan in 2000 and the wounding of other students in Texas in 2011 and Mississippi in 2021.
Ridman said he knows of only one other instance of a younger student causing gunfire at a school, in which a 5-year-old student brought a gun to a Tennessee school in 2013 and accidentally discharged it. No one was injured in that case.
Newport News is a city of approximately 185,000 people in southeastern Virginia known for its shipyards, which build the nation’s aircraft carriers and other US Navy ships.
Richneck has about 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Virginia Department of Education website. Jones said the school would not hold classes on Monday and Tuesday.
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