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Richneck Elementary Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student: Legal Action Being Taken Against District

Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner is taking legal action against the school district after she was shot by a 6-year-old student earlier this month.[0] According to her lawyer, Diane Toscano, the tragedy was entirely preventable if the school administrators had done their part and taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger.[1]

Toscano laid out a timeline of the day of the incident, including three instances where teachers reportedly told administrators they believed the child had a gun.[2] The first warning came from Zwerner around 11:15 to 11:30 a.m., when she went to a school administrator to tell them the student threatened to beat up another child.[3] At 12:30 p.m., a second teacher approached the school administrator and informed them that they had decided to search the backpack of a 6-year-old boy.[4] The fourth employee requested authorization from school administrators to search the student, yet was refused and was instructed to remain because the school day was nearly over, as reported by Toscano.[3]

The family of the 6-year-old child, via their lawyer James Ellenson, released a statement which revealed that the child has an “acute disability” and is under a care plan requiring either the mother or father to accompany him to school and be present in class with him each day.[5] The week of the shooting was the first week “we were not in class with him.”[6]

On Wednesday, the Newport News School Board made the decision to terminate the superintendent.[7] On the same day, the Assistant Principal at Richneck Elementary resigned.[8]

In a press conference Wednesday, Toscano said “This tragedy was entirely preventable if the administration had taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger. But instead, they failed to act and Abby was shot.”[4]

The unnamed boy shot teacher Abigail Zwerner on January 6 in the classroom.[9] Zwerner suffered a gunshot wound as a bullet passed through her hand and into her chest, police say.[10] She was initially left critically injured, but was released from the hospital Jan. 20.[11] Her lawyer stated that a bullet is still lodged inside her body.[4]

Toscano notes that Abby's recovery will be an extended process, and the psychological trauma she has experienced is still very raw and will last.[11]

0. “Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old claims school “failed to act” on warnings boy had gun” CBS News, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/video/virginia-teacher-shot-by-6-year-old-claims-school-failed-to-act-on-warnings-boy-had-gun

1. “Teachers Warned School Officials Over 6-Year-Old's Threats Before Shooting, Lawyer Says” The Wall Street Journal, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/teachers-warned-school-officials-over-6-year-olds-threats-before-shooting-attorney-says-11674667705

2. “US school was alerted three times about a six-year-old pupil who had a gun before he shot a teacher” Independent.ie, 27 Jan. 2023, https://www.independent.ie/world-news/north-america/us-school-was-alerted-three-times-about-a-six-year-old-pupil-who-had-a-gun-before-he-shot-a-teacher-42315073.html

3. “‘Road to recovery will be long' | Lawyer for Abby Zwerner to file lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools” 13newsnow.com WVEC, 25 Jan. 2023, https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/local/mycity/newport-news/abby-zwerner-lawyer-to-file-lawsuit-against-newport-news-public-schools-richneck-shooting/291-b123a065-dfda-4143-a8f0-05ee263d38db

4. “Teacher shot by 6-year-old says school was warned 4 times, announces lawsuit” ABC News, 25 Jan. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/US/school-board-decide-fate-superintendent-after-6-year/story?id=96654019

5. “6-year-old said he wanted to light teacher on fire before shooting: report” Insider, 22 Jan. 2023, https://www.insider.com/6-year-old-light-teacher-on-fire-shooting-2023-1

6. “Did school give child who shot teacher proper services? Special education advocate says ‘no'” CBS 6 News Richmond WTVR, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/special-education-expert-speaks-about-richneck-elementary-shooting-january-26-2023

7. “How Newport News school policy says administrators should handle potential threats, weapons on campus” 13newsnow.com WVEC, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/local/mycity/newport-news/newport-news-public-schools-threat-weapons-policy-richneck-elementary/291-b5022567-228c-4946-b80f-8e2bdeccc33b

8. “Assistant principal at Richneck Elementary School resigns” 13newsnow.com WVEC, 25 Jan. 2023, https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/local/mycity/newport-news/richneck-elementary-assistant-principal-resigns-dr-ebony-parker/291-14be1409-022c-4502-b0cd-2b6984f30f94

9. “News to Know: Newport News teacher plans to sue; Case against officer dismissed; FDA to hold COVID-19 vaccine meeting” WWBT, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.nbc12.com/2023/01/26/news-know-newport-news-teacher-plans-sue-case-against-officer-dismissed-fda-hold-covid-19-vaccine-meeting/

10. “After 3 Weeks and a Flood of Details, Va. School Shooting Grows More Unthinkable” Yahoo! Voices, 26 Jan. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/now/3-weeks-flood-details-va-232632284.html

11. “‘It was preventable’: Lawyer for Newport News teacher shot by 6-year-old announces lawsuit” WAVY.com, 24 Jan. 2023, https://www.wavy.com/news/local-news/newport-news/lawyer-for-newport-news-teacher-shot-by-6-year-old-to-issue-statement/