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Virginia elementary school reopens weeks after police say 6-year-old shot teacher

Richneck Elem. reopens with added security after 6-year-old boy shot teacher
Posted at 1:38 PM, Jan 30, 2023

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WTKR) — The Virginia elementary school, where police say a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher, reopened on Monday with increased security.

Police have said the boy brought a 9 mm handgun to school and intentionally shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, as she was teaching her first-grade class on Jan. 6. The 25-year-old teacher was hospitalized for nearly two weeks but is now recovering at home.

The school board chair, Lisa Surles-Law, said roses were handed out to the students, and all parents were allowed to walk their kids into their classrooms on Monday. Therapy dogs were at the school and made available to all first-grade students, she said.

Zwerner’s first-grade classroom, where the shooting took place, remained closed. Surles-Law said Zwerner’s students will be taught in another classroom that has been painted and made to look welcoming.

“I walked the building a little while ago, and (the teachers) are very excited to welcome their students back,” she said.

The shooting sent shock waves through Newport News, a city of about 185,000. It has also raised questions about school security and how a child so young could gain access to a gun and shoot his teacher.

Days after the shooting, the school board announced that walk-through metal detectors would be placed in every school in the district.

At Richneck Elementary, two metal detection systems have been installed and two security officers have been assigned to the school, said Michelle Price, a spokesperson for the school district. Before the shooting, one security officer was assigned to Richneck and another elementary school. The officer was not at Richneck at the time of the shooting.

The security officers will also have a hand-held metal detector wand, Price said. New doors have been installed in classroom areas that didn't have any, while other doors have been repaired or replaced, she added.

Surles-Law said students would be given clear backpacks on Monday.

The principal and assistant principal left their jobs after the shooting, and a new administrator has been appointed to lead the school as part of a personnel shake-up.

Zwerner's lawyer, Diane Toscano, said that on the day of the shooting, concerned staff at Richneck warned administrators three times that the boy had a gun and was threatening other students, but the administration didn’t call police, remove the boy from class or lock down the school.

Police said the handgun was legally purchased by the boy's mother.

In a statement released through their attorney, the boy's family said the gun was “secured." Attorney James Ellenson told The Associated Press that his understanding is that the gun was in the mother's closet on a shelf well over 6 feet (1.8 meters) high and had a trigger lock that required a key.

WTKRstaff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.