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Saturday April 13th

Security questions remain after six-year old boy shoots teacher

<p>The year 2022 saw the highest number of school shooting incidents in four decades (Photo courtesy of Flickr/“<a href="" target="">National school walkout against gun violence</a>” by Fibonacci Blue, April 20, 2018). </p>

The year 2022 saw the highest number of school shooting incidents in four decades (Photo courtesy of Flickr/“National school walkout against gun violence” by Fibonacci Blue, April 20, 2018). 

By Gauri Patel

Staff Writer

Last month, a six-year-old boy was taken into police custody after allegedly shooting his teacher with a handgun at a Virginia elementary school, according to The New York Times

The victim was identified as 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. According to a statement released by Newport News Police Department on Jan. 7, Zwerner was said to be in stable condition, one day after Police Chief Steve Drew described her injuries as life-threatening. The bullet remains dangerously lodged in her body, requiring her to undergo many surgeries along with physical therapy, according to Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s attorney, as reported by NBC

In a news conference, Drew stated that the incident was not accidental, as there was an altercation between Zwerner and the student. He added that a single round was fired, which struck the teacher in the hand and chest. 

On the day of the shooting, administrators were informed three times by teachers and staff about a boy being in possession of a gun; however, no action was taken to remove him from the classroom or lockdown the school, according to Toscano, as reported by The Associated Press. 

Zwerner first approached a school administrator between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. after the boy had threatened to beat up another student. At 12:30 p.m., a second teacher went to an administrator and took it upon themselves to search the boy’s backpack; however, the report of the possibility of a gun was downplayed by the administrator. 

Shortly before 1 p.m., a third teacher told an administrator that the boy showed the gun to another student during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anybody. A fourth employee requested permission to search the boy and was denied, Toscano said. 

“Were they not so paralyzed by apathy, they could have prevented this tragedy,” she said in a statement to the media. 

The community is still searching for answers while reaffirming calls for increased restrictions regarding gun laws. 

“I’m in shock, and I’m disheartened,” said Dr. George Parker, superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, during the news conference. “We need the community’s support, continued support, to make sure that guns are not available to the youth.” 

Authorities confirmed that the gun was legally purchased by the student’s mother. The family’s attorney, James Ellenson, told the Associated Press that the gun was stored on a shelf well over six feet tall in a closet with a trigger lock to prevent it from firing. The family is unsure of how the lock was removed. 

It is unclear whether or not the student will face legal consequences, despite Virginia being one of the 24 states with no minimum age requirement for prosecution. Andrew Block, former director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, told CNN that it is unlikely that prosecutors would file charges against a six-year-old as the defendant would not meet requirements for competency in the legal proceedings of the trial. It remains unclear whether the boy’s parents could face charges as it is unknown how the boy obtained the gun. 

This shooting has raised concerns from parents about security in schools. As a result, Richneck Elementary School has been closed since the incident and reopened on Jan. 31 with added security measures. The district secured funding for the installation of 90 state-of-the-art metal detectors at all 45 schools in the district, beginning with Richneck, said Lisa Surles-Law, Newport News School board chair, according to NBC. 

This incident is one of the many school shootings that have occurred recently. It was the third instance of gun violence in Newport News schools over the past seventeen months. 

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, the year 2022 saw the highest number of school shooting incidents in four decades. As of Dec. 20, there were 300 incidents on school grounds, compared to 15 shooting incidents in 2010. 

In particular, school shootings have become more frequent and violent. 

On May 24, 19 children and 2 adults were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, one of the worst school shootings in the U.S. Another shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida during which a gunman opened fire and killed 17 people while 17 more were injured on Feb. 14, 2018. 

“This is not a Newport News problem,” stated Dr. Parker. “It’s a bigger and broader problem than what we’re seeing today.”


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