NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — How did a six-year-old boy get a gun and shoot his first-grade teacher? That's the question on Newport News City Council member John Eley's mind.
“That teacher could have lost her life. That student, that child, he could have lost his life as well," Eley said. "How did this child even know how to use a gun at 6 years old?”
The classroom shooting is sending shockwaves across the community. Newport News police officers took the six-year-old boy into custody after he shot his 25-year-old first grade teacher at Richneck Elementary school.
James Madison University confirmed the teacher is Abby Zwerner, an alumna of their school.
Police said the child critically injured her.
Eley is also a former Newport News school board member. Although he doesn’t know Zwerner personally, he and other school leaders visited the family at the hospital, Friday. He said everyone was praying for her to pull through and her family is shaken by the incident.
“Yesterday when we went to the hospital – her aunt’s a teacher, her mom’s a teacher, her four sisters – all of them teachers. So to see this happen to that family, it’s heartbreaking," Eley said.
“They said she had a spirit of gold. She was amazing, she was a great teacher," Eley said. "She loved her students.”
Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman said he’s speechless and disheartened by the shooting.
“While she may be lying there hurting, I am pretty sure and pretty confident she’s trying to understand exactly how this happened and what she could have done different," Dr. Fedderman said. "I don’t want the educator to beat herself up about what she could have done. Educators are doing all they can do, each and every day.”
He called on elected leaders to listen to the concerns of educators and do more to stop violence in communities and schools.
Dr. Federman said: “While we cannot change what happened in the past, what we can do is take an opportunity to ask ourselves: Did this student show us any warning signs?”
Meanwhile police are still investigating how the child got the weapon.
Eley called the shooting devastating and said parents need to get more involved in their children’s’ lives.
“When I was growing up, my mom didn’t buy no toy guns. We weren’t allowed to play video games with shooting in it," Eley said. “The question is, what can parents do. When I was growing up, my mom went through my bookbag, she checked my room, she did everything – she was a parent… We need more God and more love and more parenting in our schools, in our communities.”