NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Richneck Elementary School parent said he has previously talked to school staff members about safety concerns prior to Friday’s shooting.

Police say a six-year-old student shot his elementary teacher Friday afternoon in a Richneck Elementary School classroom. James Madison University identified the teacher involved in the shooting as alumna Abby Zwerner. Zwerner is listed as a first-grade teacher on the school’s website.

Mark Anthony Garcia Sr., whose son goes to school at Richneck Elementary School, says that this incident could have been prevented.

 “It could have been prevented if we would have something in place for security,” Garcia said. “They have cameras out here, but number one, there were no metal detectors to go through the school. Not only were there no metal detectors there wasn’t a big security presence; security guards there. They have some there, but it’s not enough to make sure these kids are actually safe.”   

Garcia also questioned why the Newport News School District didn’t address security issues after two other shootings occurred at Newport News Schools.

In September 2021, a student fired several shots in a busy hallway at Heritage High School. A 17-year-old boy and girl were wounded in the shooting.

A few months later, a 17-year-old was fatally shot in the Menchville High School parking lot. An 18-year-old Warwick High School student has been arrested and faces a murder charge.

“Why didn’t the city group situation of violence from past schools in the City of Newport News to prevent security failures from happening like the Richneck shooting due to lack of metal detectors or check-in security?” Garcia asked.

He is hoping the district will take the proper steps to address security issues soon for the safety of students and their teachers.

“Make changes for not only the next six months but for the next year that these kids can come to school and feel safe,” Garcia said.

In a statement, Newport News Superintendant, George Parker III, said:

A six-year-old student with access to a weapon brought that item to his first-grade classroom. There are many concerns that we will need to unpack before we will be able to determine if any additional preventive measures would have impacted the probability of this incident occurring. In addition to assessing our established safety procedures, we will need the support of our community to significantly reduce the likelihood of a child or young adult gaining access to a weapon.

Newport News Superintendant, George Parker III

Richneck Elementary School will be closed Monday and Tuesday, according to Parker. An NNPS Crisis Team helpline is set up for people to call. The number for the helpline is 757-788-0635 and it is open 24 hours.