Virginia teacher shot by six-year-old pupil now in 'stable condition'

The scene outside Richneck Elementary School on Friday. Credit: Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

A teacher in the US who was critically injured when she was was shot by a 6-year-old student is showing signs of improvement, the city’s mayor said.

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said the condition of the teacher, a woman in her 30s, is “trending in a positive direction” as she remains hospitalised.

Police Chief Steve Drew met with the teacher and her family Saturday morning. “She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition,” police said in a news release.

The boy shot and wounded the teacher with a handgun in a first-grade classroom on Friday at Richneck Elementary School in the city of Newport News.

Mr Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.

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“We did not have a situation where someone was going around the school shooting,” Drew told reporters, later claiming that the gunshot was not an accident. Drew said the student and teacher had known each other in a classroom setting.

He said the boy had a handgun in the classroom, and investigators were trying to figure out where he obtained it.

“Today our students got a lesson in gun violence,” said George Parker III, Newport News schools superintendent, “and what guns can do to disrupt, not only an educational environment, but also a family, a community.”

Joselin Glover, whose son is in fourth grade, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper she got a text from the school stating that one person was shot and another was in custody. “My heart stopped,” she said. “I was freaking out, very nervous. Just wondering if that one person was my son.”

A school shooting involving a 6-year-old is extremely rare, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Boston’s Northeastern University. In 2000, a 6-year-old boy fired a bullet from a .32-caliber gun inside Buell Elementary near Flint, Michigan, 60 miles from Detroit, striking 6-year-old Kayla Rolland in the neck, according to an AP article from the time. She died a half-hour later.

Students and police gather outside of Richneck Elementary School on Friday. Credit: Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults, and a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty. A juvenile judge would have authority, though, to revoke a parent’s custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.

From 2010 through to 2021, there were more than 800 school-related shootings that involved 1,149 victims.

Thirty percent of those occurred in the school building, said Fox. “There are students who killed teachers, more typically high school students,” Fox said. “I don’t know of other cases where a 6-year-old shot a teacher.”