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Kindergarten Shooter Raises Tough Questions

January 30, 2023

On Jan. 6, a tragic shooting took place at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. A 6-year-old boy was taken into custody and identified as the shooter. The police were notified when parents got calls from their terrified children not knowing what was going on. All the students heard were gunshots, not knowing who was shooting or where.

The boy, who remains unidentified in the press due to his age, had shot his 25-year-old teacher, Abby Zwerner. According to the other teachers at Richneck Elementary School, the two had an altercation prior to the shooting when the teacher had apparently corrected the boy for his behavior.

Trannisha Brown, a mother whose 11-year-old son is a fifth grader at Richneck Elementary, said in an interview with CNN, “It shook me up hearing those kids crying and going frantic. All they knew was that there was a shooter in the school and they didn’t know where the shooter was.” As Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones noted, “This is still an active investigation, and the Newport News Police Department is working diligently to get an answer to the question we are all asking– how did this happen?”

Indeed, this incident has made millions of Americans wonder how a first grader was able to not only get access to a firearm, but be able to bring it to school and know how to fire it.

Recent news stories have reported that school officials were tipped off the morning of the shooting that a possible weapon had been on school grounds. According to the school’s administration, the boy’s backpack was searched prior to the shooting, but no gun was found. There are also reports that he had shown it to another student on the playground.
Richneck Elementary parent Dessire Yvette, whose daughter witnessed the shooting, told NBCNews, “If the backpack was searched, they didn’t search it right. They didn’t physically go in there to make sure that there wasn’t anything there. If that was the case, then someone should have been able to see it. They should have searched other places if they felt there was a need to search. And if they didn’t — they failed,” she said.

Perhaps due to some complaints about how the administration handled the situation, the principal of the school was reassigned to a different Newport News Public School, while the Richneck school board voted out the district superintendent. After being closed for several weeks after the shooting, the school reopened on Jan. 30, adding two school division security officers as well as two “state-of-the-art” metal detectors at Richneck.

As for the Richneck teacher who was shot, Abby Zwerner is now home and according to news reports, doing well. The police department is still questioning how to go about charging the student. It is likely the parents will be charged and the child will be put through special services. According to CNN, “Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way that it could endanger a child under the age of 14. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.”

What do students and teachers at FCHS feel about the situation? One FCHS sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “I am nervous knowing my mom is a teacher, especially since she’s in Charlottesville and I know she would do anything to protect her students.” However, FCHS teacher Elizabeth Pellicane is less concerned. “We live in a rural community so I don’t worry about something like that happening too much, although I suppose it could happen anywhere,” she said. “However, this concerns me as it relates to the violence in our society in general. I feel like there has been a general cheapening of strong moral values in society and a respect for teachers and for human life in general, whether in person or online. So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when that trickles down to even kindergarteners,” she said.

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About the Contributor
Photo of Jayne Thomas
Jayne Thomas, Journalist

Jayne is in 10th grade. In her free time she like to play Volleyball and write. In the future she hopes to attend New York University to become a dermatologist....

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