“I cannot control access to weapons,” Dr. Parker said. “My teachers cannot control access to weapons.” He added, “Today our students got a lesson in gun violence and what guns can do to disrupt not only an educational environment, but also a family, a community.”
Dr. Parker said school would be closed on Monday “as we work on the mental health of our staff and our students.”
The shooting in Newport News, a city of more than 180,000 people, about 70 miles southeast of Richmond. Va., stunned officials as they began to investigate what had gone wrong inside the school.
“I’m in shock, and I’m in awe, and I’m disheartened,” Dr. Parker said.
The mayor of Newport News, Phillip Jones, said at a news conference that while the shooting was “still raw” the city was taking steps to ensure that something similar did not happen again.
Curtis Bethany, a councilman for the city, said Newport News was dealing with “unchartered” territory. “I’ve never heard of a 6-year-old going to school with a loaded gun.”
Incidents at schools involving a shooter so young are exceptionally rare.
David Riedman, who founded the K-12 School Shooting Database after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, has compiled data on every school shooting — anytime a firearm has been discharged on school property — dating back to 1970. He found 16 cases involving shooters under the age of 10.
Three of them involved 6-year-old children. Two of those were ruled accidental shootings: One in 2011 at an elementary school in Houston in which a student had a gun that went off, injuring three people; and another in Mississippi in 2021, when a first-grader shot a fellow student with a gun he had brought to school and was playing with. In the third case, which attracted national attention, a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a young girl as the teacher was lining up students in a hallway.