NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — After a six-year-old student shot and injured his teacher at Richneck Elementary, the head of the state’s teachers union is asking whether there were any warning signs that could have prevented the shooting.
Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman is also calling on lawmakers to do more to prevent crime in the classroom
“We cannot change what happened but were there warning signs? Did we do anything about it," Dr. Fedderman questioned. “Was anything ever reported that was not acted upon that could have avoided this situation?”
Newport News police say the unidentified child, armed with a handgun, deliberately shot 25-year-old Abby Zwerner.
Dr. Fedderman is questioning how the child got the gun and whether there were any issues in the classroom in the past.
“Many politicians say we don’t have a gun problem, we have mental health problems. But those same politicians voted to only fund a third of the health professionals that are needed in our public schools," Dr. Fedderman said. “We have to be in a situation where our elected officials care enough about the safety and welfare of our students and our educators that they need to truly invest in a program or something that will work.”
He said if politicians are serious about addressing safety and mental health in school, they must “radically” improve funding.
Fedderman said students need peer mediation programs and educators need professional development on mental and behavioral health, even though – he noted – they already have demanding jobs.
“If our schools cannot be institutions that will address the social-emotional needs of our students, we will see an increase in crime in our schools and we really need to take the reign and do something about it," he said.
Fedderman called Zwerner a courageous educator.
“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 differently," he 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.”