Mayor: the shooting of a 6-year-old teacher is a “red flag for the country”

Mayor: the shooting of a 6-year-old teacher is a “red flag for the country”

Mayor: the shooting of a 6-year-old teacher is a “red flag for the country”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia teacher who was seriously injured when she was shot by a 6-year-old student at Newport News is showing signs of improvement as authorities struggle to understand how a child if young may be involved in a shooting at a school, the city’s mayor announced on Saturday.

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said the condition of the teacher, a woman in her 30s, is “moving in a positive direction” as she remains hospitalized. Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family on Saturday morning. “She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition,” police said in a news release.

The boy shot and injured the teacher with a handgun in a first grade classroom Friday at Richneck Elementary School, authorities said. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No student was injured.

On Saturday, police declined to describe what led to the altercation or any further details about what happened in the classroom, citing the ongoing investigation.

Jones also declined to reveal details of the shooting, or say how the boy gained access to the gun or who owns the gun.

“It’s a red flag for the country,” Jones said.

“I think after this event there will be a national discussion about how this stuff can be avoided.”

Virginia law doesn’t allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. Also, a 6-year-old child is too young to be in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if convicted.

A juvenile judge, however, would have the power to revoke custody of a parent and place a child in the care of the Department of Social Services.

Jones would not say where the boy is being held.

“We’re making sure he has all the services he needs right now,” Jones said.

Experts who study gun violence said the shooting represents an extremely rare case of a young child bringing a gun to school and injuring 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 Riedman, founder of a database that tracks US school shootings dating from 1970.

He said on Saturday he was aware of only three other shootings caused by 6-year-old students during the period he studied. These include the fatal shooting of a classmate in 2000 in Michigan and shootings that injured other students in 2011 in Texas and 2021 in Mississippi.

Riedman said he is only aware of one other case of a student younger than the one who caused the shootings at a school, in which a 5-year-old student brought a gun to a school in Tennessee. in 2013 and accidentally unloaded it. No one was injured in this case.

Daniel W. Webster, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies gun violence, agreed that a 6-year-old shooting a teacher at school is extremely unusual. But he said his research shows cases of young children accessing loaded guns and inadvertently shooting themselves or others in homes or other settings are on the rise.

“A 6-year-old child having access to a loaded gun and shooting himself or someone else, unfortunately, is not that uncommon,” he said in an email.

In the Newport News case, Drew said Friday the shooting did not appear to be an accident and was isolated to the sole victim. He said that the student and the teacher knew each other in a classroom.

“We haven’t had a situation where someone was running around the school shooting,” Drew told reporters.

Investigators were trying to determine where he obtained the handgun.

Parents and students were gathered in a gymnasium, Newport News Public Schools said via Facebook.

The police chief declined to discuss contact investigators had with the boy’s parents.

“We have been in contact with our Commonwealth solicitor (local prosecutor) and other entities to help us better provide services to this young man,” Drew said.

Newport News is a town of about 185,000 in southeastern Virginia, known for its shipyard, which builds the nation’s aircraft carriers and other United States Navy vessels.

Richneck has about 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Virginia Department of Education website. Jones said there would be no classes at the school on Monday and Tuesday.

“Today our students were given a lesson in gun violence,” said Newport News Superintendent of Schools George Parker III, “and what guns can do to disrupt not just an educational environment, but also 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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