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6-year-old shoots teacher at Virginia elementary school, police say

6-year-old shoots teacher at Virginia elementary school, police say

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A teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News has “life-threatening injuries” after being shot by one of her students, authorities said.

By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Eduardo Medina, New York Times Service

January 6, 2023

A 6-year-old first grader at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, shot a teacher during an altercation in a classroom on Friday afternoon, authorities said, leaving her with “life-threatening” injuries and calling for tighter gun restrictions.

The boy who shot the teacher with a pistol was in police custody Friday night, Newport News Police Department chief Steve Drew said at a news conference.

The Superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, Dr. George Parker said at the press conference that “we must keep guns out of the hands of our young people.”

Photos and video taken by Newport News on Friday immediately after the Richneck Elementary School shooting showed the chaos that ensued as officers besieged the school’s brick building: children looked scared and confused, parents stood by the cordon tape Crime scene and dozens of officers patrolled the area.

Drew said school officials worked quickly to get all students and teachers into the school’s gym and that authorities were in touch with attorneys to determine the best course of action.

“I can’t control access to guns,” Parker said. “My teachers cannot control access to guns.” He added, “Today our students got a lesson in gun violence and what guns can do to disrupt not just an educational setting but a family, a community. “

Parker said the school will close Monday “as we work on the mental health of our staff and our students.”

The shooting in Newport News, a town of more than 180,000 people about 70 miles southeast of Richmond, Virginia, stunned officials as they began investigating what went wrong at the school.

“I’m shocked and I’m in awe and I’m discouraged,” Parker said.

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said at a news conference that while the shooting was “raw” the city is taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Curtis Bethany, a city councilman, said Newport News is dealing with uncharted territory. “I’ve never heard of a 6-year-old going to school with a loaded gun.”

School incidents involving such a young shooter are extremely rare.

David Riedman, who founded the K-12 School Shooting Database after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, has compiled data on every school shooting — every time a firearm was fired on school property — since 1970 He found 16 cases involving shooters under the age of 10.

Three of them involved 6-year-old children. Two of these were classified as unintentional shootings: one in 2011 at a Houston elementary school in which a student had a gun that went off, injuring three people; and another in Mississippi in 2021, when a first grader shot and killed a classmate with a gun he had brought to school and was playing with. In the third case, which drew national attention, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a teenage girl as the teacher was lining up students in a hallway.

According to Riedman’s research, there was only one school shooting involving someone under the age of 6: A 5-year-old preschooler shot a gun in his school’s cafeteria in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2013. Nobody got hurt.

The violent episode in Newport News underscored the continuing threat of gun violence in schools across the country. In May, a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 children and two teachers. In September, another school shooting in Oakland, California, injured six people.

Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman said in a statement he was “sad that we have to respond to yet another school shooting here in Virginia.”

Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association, said: “We send all our hopes for a full recovery to the educator who was injured in yet another horrific act of gun violence in our schools. But today we’re again discussing the carnage of another school shooting. This will not stop until elected leaders take firm action to oppose the gun lobby to prevent gun violence in our communities and schools.”

Parker said that while county schools have “metal detection skills,” the schools don’t let kids go through a metal detector every day.

“If we have a perceived threat or problem, we do random metal detections on those days,” he said.

Still, he emphasized that guns were showing up on campus for “community access.”

“It’s not a Newport News problem,” he said. “It’s a bigger and broader problem than what we see today.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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