6-year-old shooter in Virginia School


Courtesy of Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash.com

Kate Gmytrasiewicz

On January 6, 2023, a six-year-old student allegedly shot his elementary school teacher following his return from a suspension, which resulted from previous accounts of violence in the classroom setting. Taking place at Richneck Elementary School, in Virginia, the boy shot a bullet that struck his teacher directly in the chest. Though she left the scene with critical injury, she was released from the hospital several days following the shooting. 

The Police investigation of the shooting included interviewing witnesses at the scene, the accumulation of other investigative material, and hours of surveillance footage. 

Although there has been a lack of detail released regarding the child who shot his teacher, authorities do know that the student suffers from an “acute disability” (USA Today). The boy’s typical school care plan, which included his mother or father attending school alongside him, was terminated the week of the shooting. When asked to speak on the shooting, the parents of the boy said, “The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him. We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives” (NBC News). The boy has been placed in a hospital and is receiving treatment  

The reported weapon used by the boy was a 9 mm Taurus firearm, which had been purchased by the boy’s mother (The New York Times). The boy took the gun from his home to his school on the day of the shooting. A statement released by the family assures the community that the gun was secured when it was taken. The mother and father of the child shared their viewpoints on the case, saying, “Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children” (NBC News). 

Abigail Zwerner, the victim, was said to have texted a loved one just one hour prior to the shooting. Her message said that she had an armed student in her classroom, and was in danger due to the lack of certain school officials’ concern. Additionally, the boy who fired at Zwerner has a history of violence in the classroom.  Zwerner’s first concern was early in the morning of January 6. She went to a school administrator with information regarding the student, who had threatened to beat up one of his peers. An hour later, a different teacher took it upon herself to search the backpack of the student in question. The possibility of a gun, and the consequences of using it, were both downplayed by the administrator notified of the danger. Closer to the end of the school day, around 1 pm, a third teacher, not previously involved in the findings earlier that day, reported to an administrator that the boy showed a fellow classmate his gun during recess, and later “threatened to shoot him if he told anybody.” When the fourth employee involved in the case asked an administrator to fully search the boy, they were denied because “the school day was almost over” (NBC News). This combination of neglect and failure to express concern regarding the alarming events prior to the shooting has pushed Zwerner to sue Richneck Elementary No charges have been reported on behalf of the student who intentionally fired the gun. 

Because of the school district’s history of gun violence, they have decided to implement new technology for preventing issues related to firearms. After being shut down, Richneck Elementary School reopened several weeks following the incident, equipped with a metal detector, with hopes of preventing future incidents.