Newport News, Virginia, school announces new safety procedures as students return to classrooms after a 6-year-old student allegedly shot teacher


Students at Richneck Elementary School navigate new safety protocols as they return to the classroom on Monday for the first time since a student turned 6 allegedly shot his teacher inside a classroom almost a month ago.

Police were on campus as anxious parents brought their children to Newport News, Virginia. Newly appointed school superintendent Karen Lynch said in an email to families that officials will be there to “support the transition.”

Newport News Police Chief Steve R. Drew told CNN: “There were a lot of smiles, a lot of high-fives, some bumps. “We have a lot of officers here. I don’t want it to be overwhelming, but I want those kids to know that we support them, as do the faculty and staff.”

According to police, the school has been closed since January 6, when a 6-year-old student allegedly shot first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner, firing a bullet through her arm and into her chest. The 25-year-old was later stabilized and discharged from the hospital.

The incident caused subversion by the superintendent of Newport News Public Schools and re-appointment of school principal to another school. Since the shooting, the school board has held several meetings to try to handle the incident in the face of backlash from angry parents.

Lynch said children were asked to arrive on Monday without backpacks because the school plans to provide them with clear backpacks on Monday. If students bring lunch to school, they will be run through metal detectors and may be searched, the email said.

The school district told CNN it has installed two metal detectors on the campus.

The school will limit visitors during this first week of instruction to allow staff “an opportunity to establish routines and procedures with students,” the email states. Parents will not be allowed into the classroom and those who choose to bring their children to class must present identification and may also be searched.

The father of a student in the same class as the 6-year-old said on Monday he has “no doubt” about sending his son back to school.

“I think with the new administration, this one that listens to the teachers, listens to the concerns and acts on those concerns… this will probably be the safest school in the area for a long time. ,” Thomas Britton told CNN.

DeDe Williams, the grandmother of a third grader at Richneck Elementary, described the first day back as “overwhelming.”

“It’s sad that we have to go in and see all the officers there at an elementary school with these kids,” Williams said, “but I feel better when they’re there and take it seriously. sufficient.”

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Watch the school board meeting where the decision to sever ties with the superintendent was made

While police have not released the student’s identity, his family released a statement saying the boy has an “acute disability”.

The family said the gun the child is said to have brought to school in a backpack – one Police said was purchased legally by his mother – has been guaranteed with a trigger lock and stored on the top shelf of the closet. Under his disability care plan, a family member often went to class with him, but he did not come on the day of the incident, they said.

“We will regret missing this day for the rest of our lives,” the family said in a statement.

Amid backlash from parents of other students, school officials are facing more questions about whether enough was done to prevent the shooting.

On Monday, the head of the local teachers union alleged in an interview with CNN that the 6-year-old was seen strangling a teacher while in kindergarten.

James Graves of the Newport News Education Association said in an interview with CNN’s Brian Todd: “What has been reported to the union is that, during his kindergarten days, he saw him strangle him. a teacher. “That’s what I was told by the union,” said Graves. He was notified of the choking incident after the shooting in January, he said.

When CNN contacted the 6-year-old’s family attorney, James Ellenson, about the allegations, Ellenson said in an email: “We have no comment.”

According to Graves, teachers said the school told them, “don’t worry about it,” regarding the suffocation allegations.

“That’s basically what I can say, but we’re still investigating that,” Graves said.

CNN has reached out to Newport News School District, former Richneck School Principal Briana Foster Newton and the teacher’s attorney who was shot, for response to the suffocation complaint. They have not responded.”

Last week, a lawyer representing the injured teacher alleged that school administrators were repeatedly warned by staff who expressed concern that the student had a gun and threatened people on the day of the incident. Shooting. Attorney Diane Toscano alleges Zwerner was shot about an hour after an unauthorized staff member searched the students.

CNN has reached out to the school district for comment on Toscano’s statements.

When students return to school, the district said support services provided to them because of the incident will continue in place.

When asked on Monday whether school administrators or staff could face charges in connection with the incident, Drew would not comment. As for whether the mother could face charges, Drew, the police chief, said that decision would be made by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

“Today, for me and the department and I might even say for our city, it’s about kids going back to school,” the sheriff said, “making sure they’re safe.” all.”

The school has compiled a Amazon Wish List of the items teachers have requested “to support the socio-emotional needs of students after the tragedy,” a unit on the school’s Facebook account.


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