Virginia Elementary School Warned 3 Times of 6-Year-Old With Gun Before Shooting Incident

Administrators at a Virginia elementary school were warned three times that a 6-year-old student had a gun or was threatening people before he allegedly shot his teacher, a lawyer said Wednesday.

Teacher Abigail Zwerner was shot by the student at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia on January 6.[0] The unnamed boy shot Zwerner in the chest after an “altercation” in her first-grade classroom.

Toscano, the lawyer for Zwerner, declared that she had informed the Newport News School Board that a lawsuit would be lodged on behalf of her client.[1]

Toscano said that over the course of a few hours, three different times, school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at school and was threatening people.

Around 12:30 p.m., a teacher reported she had searched the young boy's backpack believing he may have a gun. She was unable to locate it, however, she did inform an official that the boy may have stowed the gun away in his pocket before stepping outside for recess.[2] The official is said to have answered: “Well, he has little pockets.”[3]

Prior to the shooting, Superintendent Parker reported that a school administrator had been informed that the student might have had a gun at school. The boy's backpack was searched by the school's employees, yet the 9mm semi-automatic pistol legally owned by his mother was not found.

Upon learning of the danger, the fourth employee inquired of an administrator as to whether he could search the boy; however, the request was denied.[3] The administrators instructed the employee to wait as the school day was nearing its end.[3]

Toscano said after this third report the administration still failed to call police, lock down the school, evacuate the building or confront the student.[4]

The board voted five to one in favor of a separation agreement and severance package for Parker.[5] By a vote of 5-1, Dr. Michele Mitchell – presently the executive director of student advancement – was appointed as the interim superintendent.[1] Dr. Mitchell has been a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, director of special education, and interim chief academic officer.[5] She has been with NNPS for almost 28 years.[5]

Richneck Elementary has been closed since the shooting, but students and parents have been invited back to the school Wednesday for a two-hour non-instructional activity period, according to a letter from a school administrator.[6]

0. “6-year-old said he wanted to light teacher on fire before shooting: report” Insider, 22 Jan. 2023,

1. “Newport News Public Schools superintendent fired” CBS 6 News Richmond WTVR, 26 Jan. 2023,

2. “Three warnings before US boy, 6, shot teacher – lawyer” BBC, 26 Jan. 2023,

3. “4 warning signs given before Richneck Elem. teacher shot by student: Lawyer” News 3 WTKR Norfolk, 25 Jan. 2023,

4. “‘Road to recovery will be long' | Lawyer for Abby Zwerner to file lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools” WVEC, 25 Jan. 2023,

5. “Parker out as superintendent in Newport News”, 25 Jan. 2023,

6. “Gun allegedly used by 6-year-old to shoot teacher kept on top shelf of mother's closet, attorney says” CNN, 22 Jan. 2023,