NORFOLK, VIRGINIA (AP) – A six-year-old student shot and wounded a teacher at his school in Virginia, United States (US) during an altercation inside a first-grade classroom on Friday, police and school officials in the city of Newport News said.
Experts said a school shooting involving a six-year-old is extremely rare, although not unheard of, while Virginia law limits the ways in which a child that age can be punished for such a crime.
No students were injured in the shooting at Richneck Elementary School, police said. The teacher – a woman in her 30s – suffered life-threatening injuries. Her condition had improved somewhat by late afternoon, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said.
“We did not have a situation where someone was going around the school shooting,” Drew told reporters, later adding 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.
The police chief did not provide further details about the shooting, the altercation or what happened inside the school.
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.” Carlos, her nine-year-old, was at recess. But he said he and his classmates were soon holed up in the back of a classroom.
“Most of the whole class was crying,” Carlos told the newspaper. Parents and students were reunited at a gymnasium door, Newport News Public Schools said via Facebook.
The police chief did not specifically address questions about whether authorities were in touch with the boy’s parents, but said members of the police department were handling that investigation.
“We have been in contact with our commonwealth’s attorney (local prosecutor) and some other entities to help us best get services to this young man,” Drew said.
Newport News is a city of about 185,000 people in southeastern Virginia known for its shipyard, which builds the nation’s aircraft carriers and other US Navy vessels.
Richneck has about 550 students who are in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to the Virginia Department of Education’s website. School officials have already said that there will be no classes at the school on Monday. “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.”
Virginia law does not allow six-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a six-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.