A pupil shot a teacher in the forehead in a school cafeteria in The Hague yesterday in a rare outbreak of gun violence in the Netherlands.
Hans van Wieren, 49, an economics teacher, who was the deputy principal at the Stevincollege in the south-west of the city, was taken to hospital in a critical condition. The attacker, aged 17, fled the scene.
A witness said the boy had walked into the crowded cafeteria and shot the teacher with a single bullet. "I thought it was fireworks. I heard people scream and thought it was a joke," she said.
Another student said: "I know who he is, everyone knows who he is. He has a reputation of being wild."
The school, with several hundred students of mostly Moroccan and Turkish origin, was cleared and the area closed to the public as police investigators moved in with sniffer dogs to search for the suspect and a weapon.
Other pupils said that fights were common at the school, which was frequently visited by the police. Students said that the boy had carried out the attack in revenge for being suspended for misbehaviour a few days earlier. It was unclear why he had been punished.
Maria van der Hoeven, the Education minister, was told about the shooting while on a trip to China. She described it as "incomprehensible and horrible". The national trade union for teachers called the shooting shocking. A spokesman said: "It shows that the violence in our society doesn't exclude schools and education personnel. But even tight security could not have prevented the awful events."
School shootings are virtually unheard of in the Netherlands where tight gun laws strictly limit the availability of firearms.
In 1999, a student, also aged 17, opened fire on other students in the southern town of Veghel, wounding five people. He was sentenced to fiveyears in prison by a district court.