NORFOLK, VA. — A 6-year-old student shot and wounded a teacher at his Virginia school during an argument in a first-grade classroom Friday, Newport News police and school officials said.
Experts say a school shooting involving a 6-year-old is extremely rare, though not unheard of, while Virginia law limits how a child that age can be punished for such a crime.
According to the police, as a result of the shooting at Rychnek Elementary School, none of the students were injured. The teacher, a 30-year-old woman, received life-threatening injuries. Her condition had improved somewhat by late afternoon, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said.
“We didn’t have a situation where someone was shooting around the school,” Drew told reporters, later adding that the shooting was not random.
Drew said the student and teacher were acquaintances in the classroom.
He said the boy had a gun in the classroom and investigators are looking into where he got it. The police chief did not provide further details about the shooting, the altercation or what happened at the school.
Jocelyn Glover, whose son is in the fourth grade, told The Virginian-Pilot that she got word from the school that one person had been shot and the other was in custody.
“My heart stopped,” she said. “I was in a frenzy, very nervous. I just wonder if this man was my son.’
Carlos, her 9-year-old, was at recess. But he said he and his classmates soon hid in the back of the classroom.
“Most of the whole class was crying,” Carlos told the newspaper.
Parents and students reunited outside the gymnasium doors, Newport News Public Schools said on Facebook.
The police chief did not specifically answer questions about whether authorities have been in contact with the boy’s parents, but said the police department is investigating.
“We contacted our state’s attorney (local prosecutor) and some other organizations to help us get the best services for this young man,” Drew said.
Newport News is a city of about 185,000 in southeastern Virginia known for its shipyard that builds the nation’s aircraft carriers and other ships for the US Navy.
Richneck has about 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to information on the Virginia Department of Education website. The school administration has already informed that there will be no classes at the school on Monday.
“Today, our students learned a lesson about gun violence,” said George Parker III, principal of the Newport News school, “and that guns can disrupt not only an educational environment, but a family, a community.”
Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults.
Also, the 6-year-old is too young to be placed in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if convicted.
However, a juvenile judge would have the authority to remove one parent from custody and place the child under the supervision of the Department of Human Services.
A school shooting involving a 6-year-old is extremely rare, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Boston Northeastern University.
Fox told The Associated Press on Friday night that he could recall one previous incident involving a child that age.
In 2000, a 6-year-old boy fired a bullet from a .32-caliber handgun at Buell Elementary near Flint, Michigan, 60 miles (96 kilometers) from Detroit, hitting 6-year-old Kayla Roland in the neck. to an AP article at the time. Half an hour later she died.
Fox analyzed datasets on school shootings dating back to 1970 from the National Defense and Security Center, based at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He said the data lists school shootings involving children ages 7, 8, 9 and older, but not 6-year-olds.
Another factor that stands out about the Virginia shooting is that it happened in a classroom, Fox said. Many of them take place outside the school building, where students are unsupervised.
From 2010 to 2021, there were more than 800 shootings in K-12 schools, killing 1,149 people. Thirty percent of those occurred inside a school building, said Fox, who published the 2010 book Campus Violence and Safety: From Preschool to College.
“There are students who have killed teachers, more often high school students,” Fox said. “I don’t know of any other cases where a 6-year-old shot a teacher.”
Barakat reported from Falls Church, Virginia.
A 6-year-old shot and killed a teacher in a Virginia classroom
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