Richmond, Va. (AP) – A Virginia teacher who was seriously wounded in the shooting by a 6-year-old student in Newport News is showing signs of improvement as authorities struggle to understand how a child so young could be involved. It is possible A school shooting, the city’s mayor said Saturday.
Newport News Mayor Philip Jones said the teacher, a woman in her 30s, was “moving in a positive direction” because of her hospitalization. Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family on Saturday morning. “He has improved and is currently in stable condition,” police said in a news release.
The boy shot and wounded a teacher in a first-grade classroom Friday at Richneck Elementary School, according to officials. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.
Police on Saturday declined to say what happened in the classroom or give any other details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Jones also declined to disclose details of the shooting, or say how the boy got the gun or who owned the weapon.
“It’s a red flag for the country,” Jones said.
“I think after this incident, there’s going to be a nationwide discussion on how things like this can be stopped.”
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.
Jones would not say where the boy is being held.
“We’re making sure they have all the services they need right now,” Jones said.
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 positioned to deal with,” said researcher David Ridman. database which tracks a 1970 American school shooting.
He said Saturday that he knew of only three other shootings that took place during the period the 6-year-olds were being studied. These include the fatal shooting of a fellow student. 2000 in Michigan and the 2011 shooting in Texas that injured other students and 2021 in Mississippi.
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.
Daniel W. Webster, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies gun violence, agreed that it is highly unusual for a 6-year-old to shoot a teacher at school. But he said his research shows that the incidence of young children reaching for loaded guns and shooting themselves or others unintentionally in homes or other settings is on the rise.
“A 6-year-old child gaining access to a loaded gun and shooting himself or someone else is, sadly, not that rare,” he said in an email.
In the Newport News case, Drew said Friday that the shooting does not appear to be an accident and that the single victim was isolated. He said that the students and teachers knew each other in the class.
“We didn’t have a situation where someone was going around doing a school shooting,” Drew told reporters.
Investigators are trying to ascertain from where he acquired the pistol.
Parents and students were reunited in a gymnasium, Newport News Public Schools said via Facebook.
The police chief declined to discuss what contact investigators have had with the boy’s parents.
“We are in close contact with our Commonwealth’s Attorney (local prosecutor) and a number of other agencies to help us provide the best possible services to this young man,” Drew said.
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.
According to the Virginia Department of Education website, Richneck has approximately 550 students who are in kindergarten through fifth grade. Jones said the school would not hold classes on Monday and Tuesday.
“Today our students got a lesson in gun violence,” said Newport News School Superintendent George Parker III, “and what guns can do to disrupt not only an educational environment, but a family, a community.”
Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Matthew Barakat in Falls Church and Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.
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