A teacher who was seriously injured when she was shot by a six-year-old student in the United States is showing signs of improvement, authorities say.

The woman in her thirties was shot in class by the boy during an altercation on Friday and it was not accidental, police say.

Phillip Jones, the mayor of the town of Newport News in Virginia, where the incident happened, said it was a “red flag for the country”.

He said the Richneck Elementary School teacher’s condition is “moving in a positive direction” as she remains in hospital.

Police initially described the teacher’s injuries as “life threatening”, but said a senior officer saw her on Saturday and “she has improved and is currently in stable condition”.

Officials are struggling to understand how such a young child could be involved in a school shooting, Mr Jones added.

The boy shot and injured the teacher in a first grade classroom. No student was injured.

Students and police gather outside the school after the shooting

Mr Jones declined to divulge further details about what led to the altercation, citing the ongoing police investigation.

He also wouldn’t say how the boy got access to the gun or who the gun belonged to.

Mr Jones said: “I think after this event there will be a national discussion about how this stuff can be avoided.”

George Parker III, Superintendent of Public Schools for Newport News, said: “I’m impressed, and I’m shocked, and I’m discouraged.”

The boy is too young to be judged

School officials said there would be no classes at Richneck on Monday.

Virginia law does not allow six-year-olds to be tried as adults.

Also, a six-year-old child is too young to be in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if convicted.

A juvenile judge, however, would have the power to revoke custody of a parent and place a child in the care of the Department of Social Services.

Mr Jones would not say where the boy was being held, but added: ‘We are making sure he has all the services he currently needs at this time.

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Gun Violence in America

Experts who study gun violence said the shooting represents an extremely rare case of a young child bringing a gun to school and injuring 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 aware of only three other shootings caused by six-year-old students during the period he studied; a fatal shooting of a classmate in 2000 in Michigan and shootings that injured other students in 2011 in Texas and 2021 in Mississippi.

Mr Riedman said he knew of only one other case of a student younger than the one who provoked gunfire at a school, in which a five-year-old brought a gun into a school of Tennessee in 2013 and accidentally unloaded it.

No one was injured in this case.

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