NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A Richneck Elementary School mother and alumna is calling for change in the division beyond the security measures outlined by the superintendent this week.
Last Friday, a 6-year-old first grader brought a gun to school and shot his teacher, Abigail Zwerner. Last night during a town hall meeting for parents, it was revealed that at least one administrator knew that the student might’ve had a weapon. The student’s backpack was searched, and he went on to class where he proceeded to fire a 9mm handgun.
Kasey Sypolt said that the plan to deploy metal detectors in schools is a start, but won’t quell the overwhelming calls for increased safety measures.
“He should not have been in the classroom. After he was searched, the parents should have been notified to pick him up immediately, whether they found something or not,” she said.
She said the day of the shooting was one of the most terrifying of her life. Her son sent her a text saying “Mom there is a lock down I’m scared,” followed by “It’s real,” and “Are you coming”?
“My heart dropped. You don’t ever think you’re going to get that text message,” she said.
Sypolt left her own classroom and drove 40 minutes to Richneck. She said she waited for three hours to reunite with her son.
An educator in another school division, Sypolt said the mistakes never would have occurred in her workplace. She said NNPS administrators must listen to teachers who voice safety concerns in classrooms.
“As an educator I know the administration I work for would take that seriously the age of the student doesn’t matter a threat is a threat especially when it’s something as serious as a gun. I think more needs to be done. Positive support interventions, they’re already doing that. They need to be heard when they make a statement,” she said. “Evaluations for support I think is important. Mental health services are important. When teachers voice their concerns they need to be heard, and taken seriously.”
Sypolt said that beyond security procedures, it is time for personnel changes in the central office.
“I think a lot of people are after the superintendent, Dr. Parker. We’ve had three instances. It’s time for a change,” she said, referencing a shooting at Heritage High School and a deadly shooting during a basketball game at Menchville High School, both incidents in 2021.
Sypolt said her family had already been looking to move to a different school division. The shooting at her son’s school was the final straw.
“We were already looking into moving and we’re looking to do that a little faster now,” she said.