Teacher who was shot by 6-year-old files massive lawsuit against school board, top administrators

The Virginia first-grade teacher shot by a 6-year-old student filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school which she asserts refused to search him “for the firearm that they knew to be in his possession.”

On Jan. 6, 2023, Richneck, Virginia elementary school teacher Abigail Zwerner, 25, reportedly raised concern over a student that was only to go ignored before she was ultimately shot in the hand and chest by a child. Now, she has filed a suit in the Circuit Court for the City of Newport News against the school board as well as the superintendent, Dr. George Parker III, the principal, Briana Foster Newton, and Assistant Principal Ebony Parker for $40 million.

“It was the responsibility of Defendants to supervise him. control him. remove him when necessary for the safety of others, and search him for the firearm that they knew to be in his possession,” the 20-page complaint reads.

Referred to in the complaint as “John Doe,” the child was described to have “had a history of random violence” including having been previously removed from the school in kindergarten after he was alleged to have “strangled and choked a teacher.”

Doe was permitted to return to Richneck for the 2022-2023 school year, and the complaint detailed that ongoing “concerns with his behavior were regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed.”

In January, Zwerner’s attorney Diane Toscano had said, “They didn’t call security, they didn’t remove the student from the classroom, the school administration failed to act,” and, as previously reported, numerous incidents had been reported to administrators that included a written death threat and barricading classroom doors to attempt and prevent the teacher and students from leaving.

By Zwerner’s account, Parker “had no response” to her report that Doe was “in a violent mood” and had allegedly “threatened to beat up a kindergartner” that day, “refusing even to look up at [Zwerner] when she expressed her concerns.”

“She was well known…to ignore and downplay concerns expressed by teachers,” the complaint stated. “Assistant Principal Parker’s administrative style was to permit students to engage in dangerous and disruptive conduct and impose no consequence for breaking the rules, thereby placing all persons in the vicinity of the school and in the community at risk.”

Other students had reportedly told a Richneck reading specialist that they had seen a gun in the boy’s backpack, but when that school employee took the initiative to search his bag, the firearm had been removed.

An attempt to get permission to search the boy was dismissed allegedly because his pockets “were too small” to conceal the gun that he later was said to have pulled from the pouch of his hoodie when he shot Zwerner.

The school teacher, who still has “bullet fragments embedded in her chest” has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the damage to her hand and has reportedly experienced “emotion distress, anxiety, depression, nightmares and psychological injuries,” and claims to be “unable to work since the incident and it is undetermined if/when she will be able to return to work.”

For those reasons, she is seeking a jury trial.


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