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

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Richneck Elementary School has announced new safety protocols as students return to classes on Monday, nearly a month after a 6-year-old student allegedly shot his teacher inside a classroom.

In an email to families, newly appointed school administrator Karen Lynch said the school in Newport News, Virginia, will have police on campus to “assist with the transition.”

Children should arrive without a backpack because the school plans to provide them with clear ones on Monday, Lynch said. If students bring lunch items to school, they will be run through a metal detector and are subject to search, the email says.

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

The school will be limiting visitors during this first week of instruction to allow staff “the opportunity to establish routines and procedures with students,” the email states. Parents will not be allowed to enter classrooms and those who choose to walk their children to class must show identification and are also subject to search, it said.

The school closed after first grade teacher Abby Zwerner was critically injured on January 6 when a bullet was shot through her hand and into her chest, according to police. The 25-year-old was later stabilized and released from the hospital.

The incident has resulted in the ousting of the Newport News Public Schools superintendent and the reassignment of the school’s principal to another school. Since the shooting, the school board has held several meetings as it grapples with how to handle the incident amidst backlash from frustrated parents.

See school board meeting where decision to cut ties with superintendent was made

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

“I think with new administration, this administration that listens to teachers, listens to concerns and acts on those concerns … this is probably going to be the safest school in the area for a good long while,” Thomas Britton told CNN’s Brian Todd.

Last week, a lawyer representing the injured teacher alleged that school administrators were warned multiple times by staff who expressed concerns that the student had a gun and was making threats to people the day of the shooting. The lawyer, Diane Toscano, alleged Zwerner was shot about an hour after an employee was denied permission to search the student.

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

While police have not publicly identified the student, his family has released statements saying the boy suffers from “an acute disability.”

The family has said the gun the child allegedly brought to school in his backpack was secured by a trigger lock and kept on the top shelf of a closet. As part of his disability care plan, a family member usually went to class with him, but he was not accompanied the day of the incident, they said.

“We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the family statement said.

As students return to school, the district says support services made available to them since the incident will continue on site.

The school has compiled an Amazon wish list of items teachers have requested “to support students’ social-emotional needs post-tragedy,” a post on the school’s Facebook account said.


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