A teacher who was critically injured when she was shot by a six-year-old pupil in the US is showing signs of improvement, authorities say.
The woman in her 30s was shot in class by the boy during an altercation on Friday and it was not accidental, according to police.
Phillip Jones, the mayor of the city of Newport News in Virginia, where the incident happened, said it was a “red flag for the country”.
He said the condition of the teacher at Richneck Elementary School is “trending in a positive direction” as she remains in hospital.
Police initially described the teacher’s injures as “life-threatening” but said a senior officer had met her on Saturday and “she has improved and is currently listed in stable condition”.
Officials are struggling to understand how a child so young could be involved in a school shooting, Mr Jones added.
The boy shot and wounded the teacher in a first-grade classroom. No pupils were injured.
Mr Jones declined to release additional details about what led to the altercation, citing the ongoing police investigation.
He also would not comment on how the boy got access to the gun or who owns the weapon.
Mr Jones said: “I do think that after this event, there is going to be a nationwide discussion on how these sorts of things can be prevented.”
George Parker III, Newport News public schools superintendent, said: “I’m in awe, and I’m in shock, and I’m disheartened.”
Boy is too young to face trial
School officials have said that there will be no classes at Richneck on Monday.
Virginia law does not allow six-year-olds to be tried as adults.
In addition, a six-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty.
A juvenile judge would have authority, though, to revoke a parent’s custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.
Mr Jones would not say where the boy is being held but added: “We are ensuring he has all the services that he currently needs right now.”
Experts who study gun violence said the shooting represents an extremely rare occurrence of a young child bringing a gun into school and wounding a teacher.
Researcher David Riedman, who founded a database that tracks US school shootings dating back to 1970, said it was “not something the legal system is really designed or positioned to deal with”.
He said he was only aware of three other shootings caused by six-year-old pupils in the time period he has studied; a fatal shooting of a fellow pupil in 2000 in Michigan and shootings that injured other students in 2011 in Texas and 2021 in Mississippi.
Mr Riedman said he only knows of one other instance of a student younger than that causing gunfire at a school, in which a five-year-old brought a gun to a Tennessee school in 2013 and accidentally discharged it.
No one was injured in that case.