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Mother of Virginia School Shooter Gets Two-Year Prison Term

The mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher this year was sentenced to two years in a Virginia prison for child neglect. A judge in Newport News Circuit Court sentenced 26-year-old Deja Taylor in connection with actions prosecutors said enabled the shooting, reports the Wall Street Journal. Her son took her gun to school and fired one shot at his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, in January. The shooting drew national attention and raised questions about gun violence in schools. In addition to Taylor’s state sentence on a felony charge, she was sentenced last month to 21 months on two federal gun charges. She pleaded guilty to both the federal and state charges and is set to serve each sentence separately. Prosecutors rarely charge the parents of a child who commits a shooting. In recent years, however, there has been an uptick in these cases as officials try to hold relatives accountable for events leading to the shootings. The parents of a Michigan teenager who killed four students at his high school in 2021 are set to go on trial next year on involuntary manslaughter charges.

Virginia prosecutors, in exchange for Taylor’s guilty plea, dropped her misdemeanor firearm charge and asked for a sentence lower than the maximum five-year prison term Taylor told prosecutors she regretted mistakes that caused her now 7-year-old son, whose name hasn’t been publicly released, to shoot his teacher. She said she has struggled with her mental health and a marijuana addiction. Her son has an acute disability. Federal officials said when Taylor bought the gun that was used in the shooting, she lied on a form about her use of controlled substances. Federal law bars users of illegal drugs from possessing firearms. Taylor’s son took the firearm, a semiautomatic 9mm handgun, from his home to school in January. Zwerner said she had seen the boy take something out of his backpack and put it in his sweatshirt pocket. While the then 25-year-old teacher was seated at a reading table, the boy fired a bullet that went through her hand and upper chest. Zwerner has sued Newport News school officials for $40 million over what she said were failures to heed warnings the boy had a gun. She has dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical and mental pain.


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