Students Return to Virginia School After Shooting; Injured Teacher to Sue

Luke Holland | January 30, 2023

(The Lion) — Students are returning to class Monday at a Virginia elementary school where a teacher was shot by a 6-year-old student. That teacher intends to sue.

Abby Zwerner, a teacher at Richneck Elementary School in the city of Newport News, was shot by one of her students on Jan. 6 in front of her class.

Zwerner is recovering, and plans to sue the district, Newport News Public Schools. According to her lawyer, Diane Toscano, school officials could have prevented the shooting but mishandled several warnings regarding the boy the day of the incident.

“This tragedy was entirely preventable if the school administrators responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger,” Toscano said at a press conference. “But instead, they failed to act and Abby was shot.”

In the morning, Toscano says Zwerner informed a school administrator the boy had threatened to beat up another student. Later, the same official was informed by a different teacher the boy had put a gun in his pocket, which was met with the response, “Well, he has little pockets.” Yet another teacher later reported a student had tearfully claimed the boy had shown him a gun, threatening to shoot him if he told anyone. And a fourth school employee’s request to search the boy was denied, with the teacher “told to wait the situation out because the school day was almost over,” Toscano says. 

About an hour later, the boy shot Zwerner in a classroom with other students. Zwerner was able to get students out of the classroom, and no one else was harmed. When police arrived, the boy had been restrained. 

According to a statement from the boy’s family, he had an “acute disability.” The family claims there were provisions which permitted a parent to accompany him to class every day. The week of the shooting was the first time they had not done so.

The family also says that the handgun had been legally purchased and claims it was secured. It is not known how the boy accessed the firearm. 

Since the shooting, Principal Briana Foster Newton has been reassigned within the Newport News district. Additionally, Superintendent Gary Parker has been fired. Richneck students finally returned to classes on Monday with additional security measures in place, over three weeks after the shooting.