Er … what? A 25-year-old teacher has fought for her life after getting shot in the chest by a six-year old student, apparently intentionally. The assumption has been that the child’s possession of the firearm came as a complete surprise to the school and the district.
Administrators at the Virginia school where a first-grader shot his teacher last week learned the child may have had a weapon in his possession before the shooting but did not seize the 9mm handgun he brought to his classroom, the school system’s superintendent said.
School system Superintendent George Parker told parents Thursday night in an online meeting that a school official was notified about the weapon before the 6-year-old shot the teacher at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon in the timeline that we’re reviewing and was aware that that student had, there was a potential that there was a weapon on campus,” the superintendent told parents, according to a clip of the meeting broadcast by WAVY-TV.
The superintendent says that the administrators knew “hours” before, and did conduct a search on his bookbag. They didn’t find the gun, but less than three hours later, the child shot his teacher and nearly killed her. It’s not clear how a six-year-old could conceal the firearm elsewhere without it being noticed, or whether administrators warned his teacher about the situation:
Parker offered an odd solution, considering these circumstances:
The superintendent told parents that he’s been in contact with Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, for advice on how to proceed. Last May, 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary.
“We’ve been in contact with Uvalde in Texas who have been very gracious in communicating with us,” Dr. Parker stated.
After three school shootings in three years, Newport News Public Schools is changing the way the district handles security. Dr. Parker told parents he’s considering requiring clear plastic backpacks for Richneck students that would be purchased by the district.
What good would a clear backpack have done in this situation? The school physically searched the backpack, according to Parker, a process that would provide a much better look at the entire contents of the backpack — or should have, if done competently. Also, a clear backpack wouldn’t do much good to expose a weapon brought by a student anyway, who could just as easily hide it within a folder or other papers in the bag.
The metal detectors and some of the other security proposals make more sense, but only the metal detectors might have prevented this particular shooting. And even then, it still would require teachers and administrators to follow up on an alert from the machine of a potential danger. The school got such an alert in this case, specific to the student, and still failed to find the weapon — on a six year old — before the shooting.
The AP reports that the teacher had no warning in the classroom:
The teacher, Abigiail Zwerner, 25, was shot in the chest with injuries initially considered to be life threatening. Her condition has improved, though, and she has been reported in stable condition at a hospital. …
The Jan. 6 shooting occurred as Zwerner was teaching her class. Authorities said there was no warning and no struggle before the 6-year-old boy pointed the gun at Zwerner.
Police Chief Steve Drew has described the shooting as intentional. A judge will determine what’s next for the child, who is being held at a medical facility following an emergency custody order.
A six-year-old won’t be prosecuted in the normal sense, of course, because six-year-olds don’t have the capacity to form a truly criminal intent. The mother will likely get prosecuted, however, for leaving her firearm accessible to the child. That’s normally a misdemeanor, but one has to wonder whether the district attorney will escalate that by charging the mother as an accessory before the fact to assault with a deadly weapon. Children of that age may not be criminally responsible for their conduct, but parents can be held responsible for it.
If the teacher had no warning from administrators about a known threat from this child, you can bet that the school and the district will wind up in court. This will cost them through the nose — and it should.