Mother of 6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

The mother of a 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in a Virginia classroom was sentenced on Friday to two years in prison after pleading guilty in August to a charge of felony child neglect.

The sentencing of the mother, Deja Taylor, is the latest development in a case that drew national attention amid charged debates over guns and school safety. The January shooting in a first-grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News stunned the community because of the child’s age and raised questions about the school’s response and the boy’s access to the weapon.

Ms. Taylor’s lawyer, James S. Ellenson, had previously said that prosecutors had agreed to seek only six months of imprisonment, given Ms. Taylor’s lack of criminal history before this episode. He called the judge’s sentencing decision “excessive and harsh.”

The judge, Christopher R. Papile, said on Friday that Ms. Taylor had abdicated her responsibilities as a parent, and that the results were “egregious,” The Daily Press reported.

He added that the charge of neglect was more serious than the federal charges that Ms. Taylor has already faced. Last month, she was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to using marijuana while owning a firearm and making false statements about drug use. The two sentences will be served consecutively.

“She’s just very upset and sad,” Mr. Ellenson said of the new sentence. He added that the child, who was not charged, is in the custody of his great-grandfather.

The teacher who was shot, Abigail Zwerner, had been in the middle of a routine lesson when, the police said, the boy pulled out the gun, aimed it at her and fired. A single bullet passed through her hand and struck her chest; she was seriously injured but survived. She has since filed a lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence.

Days after the shooting, a spokeswoman for the Newport News public school district confirmed that a staff member had searched the child’s backpack before the shooting took place “after it was reported that the student may have a weapon.” No weapon was found. Later that month, the school board voted to terminate the contract of the district’s superintendent, George Parker III.

Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to children under 14, but there is not a broad law that requires that all guns be safely stored in homes.

The boy’s family said in a January statement that the child had an “acute disability” and had previously been accompanied to school each day by his mother or father. The week of the shooting, the statement said, was the first time that a parent had not been in class with him.

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

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