A 6-year-old first-grader at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, shot a teacher during a fight in the classroom, according to the police. The teacher’s injuries are “life-threatening,” and the shooting has led to more calls for stricter gun laws.
Steve Drew, the head of the Newport News Police Department, said at a news conference that the boy who shot the teacher once with a handgun around 2:00 p.m. was in police custody as of Friday evening. He also said that the teacher, a woman in her 30s, was taken to a nearby hospital and that her condition had gotten a little better by late Friday afternoon.
At the news conference, Dr. George Parker, the superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, said, “We need to keep guns out of the hands of our young people.”
Photos and videos taken a right after the shooting at Newport News’s Richneck Elementary School on Friday showed chaos as officers swarmed the brick building. Children looked scared and confused, parents stood next to crime scene tape, and dozens of officers walked around the area.
Trannisha Brown, whose son Carter Jackson is in the fifth grade at Richneck and is 11 years old, said in an interview that she got a scary call from her son soon after the shooting.
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She said that Carter and his friends took cover on the floor of their classroom when they heard gunshots.
“It scared me to hear those kids crying and running around like crazy,” said Ms. Brown, 32. “All they knew was a shooter in the school, but they didn’t know where the shooter was.”
She kept talking to Carter on the phone and tried to make him feel better. She remembered telling him, “You’re going to be fine.” At the news conference, Chief Drew said that school officials had worked quickly to get all the students and teachers into the gym and that the police had talked to lawyers to figure out what to do next.
“I can’t stop people from getting guns,” Dr. Parker said. “My teachers can’t stop people from getting guns.” He also said, “Today, our students learned about gun violence and how guns can upset not just a school but also a family and a community.”
Dr. Parker said that school would be closed on Monday “while we work on the mental health of our staff and students.”
The shooting in Newport News, Virginia, a city with more than 180,000 people about 70 miles southeast of Richmond, shocked officials as they looked into what went wrong in the school.
Dr. Parker said, “I’m shocked, I’m amazed, and I’m sad.” Phillip Jones, the mayor of Newport News, said at a news conference that the shooting was “still raw” but that the city was taking steps to make sure something similar didn’t happen again.
Curtis Bethany, a Newport News city councilman, said that the city was in “uncharted” territory. “I’ve never heard of a six-year-old taking a gun to school.”
Shootings at schools with someone so young as the shooter are very rare.
David Riedman started the K-12 School Shooting Database after a high school in Parkland, Florida, mass shooting in 2018. He has collected information on every school shooting since 1970, defined as any time a gun was fired on school grounds. He found 16 cases in which people under 10 were the shooters.
Three of them were about 6-year-olds. Two of them were ruled to be accidents. In 2011, a student in Houston’s elementary school had a gun that went off, hurting three people. In 2021, a first-grader in Mississippi shot another student with a gun he had brought to school and was playing with. In the third case, which got national attention, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a young girl while the teacher was lining up students in a hallway.
Mr. Riedman’s research shows that only one person under 6 has shot at a school. In 2013, a 5-year-old kindergartener in Memphis, Tenn., shot a gun in his school cafeteria. Not one person was hurt.
The violence in Newport News showed how schools all over the country are still at risk of gun violence. In May, 19 kids and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. In September, there was another shooting at a school in Oakland, California. Six people were hurt.
In a statement, Dr. James J. Fedderman, the president of the Virginia Education Association, said that he was “sad that we have to deal with another school shooting here in Virginia.”
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said, “We hope that the teacher who has been hurt in yet another horrific act of gun violence in our schools will recover. But today, we’re talking about the death and destruction caused by another school shooting. This won’t stop until our elected leaders do something about it and stand up to the gun lobby to stop gun violence in our neighborhoods and schools.”
Dr. Parker said that while district schools have “metal detection capability,” they don’t make kids walk through a metal detector daily.
“On days when we think there might be a threat or problem, we do random metal checks,” he said. Still, he stressed that guns are on campus because they are “easy to get” in the neighborhood.
He said, “This is not a Newport News problem.” “It’s a bigger problem than we’re seeing now.”
Reporting was done by Christopher Mele, Tim Arango, and Leah Small.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.