Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old identified, parents demand action

First-grader shot and critically wounded teacher during altercation inside Richneck Elementary School

A 6-year-old first-grader at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, shot a teacher on Friday afternoon during an altercation in a classroom, authorities said, leaving her with "life-threatening" injuries and renewing calls from parent's for greater classroom safety and oversight. 

The 6-year-old boy shot 30-year-old Abigail Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School. She was rushed to Riverside Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries following the incident.

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Abby Zwerner was shot in the abdomen Friday by a 6-year-old student who had brought a gun to school. The 30-year-old teacher remained in critical condition until Saturday morning when police shared that she was in "stable" condition following the altercation.

Abby Zwerner was shot in the abdomen Friday by a 6-year-old student who had brought a gun to school. The 30-year-old teacher remained in critical condition until Saturday morning when police shared that she was in "stable" condition following the altercation. (Facebook/Abby Zwerner)

Police respond to a shooting at Richneck Elementary School, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 in Newport News, Virginia.

Police respond to a shooting at Richneck Elementary School, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 in Newport News, Virginia. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Before Friday's incident at Richneck Elementary School there were shootings at two other schools within the Newport News Public Schools system that shook the community in the past 17 months.

In September 2021, a 16-year-old fired several shots in a busy hallway inside Heritage High School during lunchtime, injuring two 17-year-olds

In December 2021, 18-year-old Demari Batten fatally shot 17-year-old Justice Dunham in the parking lot of Menchville High School after a football game, also within the Newport News Public Schools system.

According to the district's website. Newport News Public Schools consists of 26,500 students, and includes 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools. Richneck Elementary School has about 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

In a press conference on Friday, superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, Dr. George Parker said, "We need to keep guns out of the hands of our young people."

Some agreed, calling on the state and federal government to enact stricter gun laws to keep firearms out of children's hands. 

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Others called for the district to place metal detectors in schools, place law enforcement personnel inside schools, and even require students to carry clear backpacks into school.  

"How many shootings and incidents does it take to start using metal detectors at every school, every entrance, every day, 24/7 with no exceptions." Riri Mimi wrote. "Issue a clear backpack policy AND put armed school resource officers in EVERY school."

"What’s your plan to stop this drama? Put Metal Detectors in school!!!!" Hanan Daoud, who has children within the school district, said.

A shooting in a classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, happened on Friday after an altercation between a student and a teacher, officials said.

A shooting in a classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, happened on Friday after an altercation between a student and a teacher, officials said. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

Richneck Elementary School will be closed on Monday and Tuesday in response to the latest shooting.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew met with Zwerner and her family Saturday morning, according to a statement released by police Saturday afternoon.

"She has improved and is currently listed in stable condition," police said in the statement. "Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, we will not be releasing any further information at this time."

Richneck Principal Briana Foster Newton said in a statement, "My heart is aching for our school community. The tragic event that occurred on Friday impacts all of us deeply," he said. "My thoughts and prayers remain with our teacher who was seriously injured, and our students and our staff, who are dealing with the aftereffects of this tragedy."

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On Friday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin expressed his condolences to the Newport News community saying, "My administration has offered assistance in response to the shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News and stand at the ready to help in any way we can. I am continuing to monitor the situation and am praying for the continued safety of all students and the community."