Virginia Teacher Shot by 1st-Grader Has Been Fired, Attorney Says

John Ransom | June 15, 2023

(The Lion) — The Virginia teacher who was shot by a first-grader has been fired in what her attorney says might be retaliation for her lawsuit against the school.

In January, Richneck Elementary School Abby Zwerner was shot in the classroom by a six-year-old student, who allegedly brought the gun from home. After recovering from life-threatening injuries, the teacher filed suit against school administrators of Newport News Public Schools on April 3, seeking $40 million in damages stemming from the shooting.

The lawsuit alleges the child had a history of violence, which the district ignored, and school authorities had been notified several hours before the shooting that the child had a gun at school, according to Breit Biniazan, PC, one of the law firms representing the teacher.

Zwerner’s attorney, Jeffrey Breit, said the teacher was shocked by the district’s action and can only think of it as retaliation for filing suit against the district. 

“I don’t think you can read this any other way than you’ve been fired,” Breit told local WAVY TV News. “And that’s what she thinks. She doesn’t understand it; there’s no other communication.” 

The district told the station the notification was triggered by teacher’s desire to resign, citing a March email from Zwerner allegedly saying, “I wish to resign. Thank you.” 

“The email that Ms. Zwerner received from the Human Resources Department is a confirmation of her separation of service from Newport News Public Schools,” the district told WAVY. “Every employee who is separating from the school division receives a similar communication.”  

Breit disagrees, calling the district’s actions “outrageous.” 

“To say we were shocked is an understatement; we have litigation,” Breit said. “They haven’t paid her in a couple of months. They are trying to squeeze her. She has to August 1 to leave or re-sign, (but) they fire her two months early. The only thing I can think, they were trying to put pressure on her because we filed suit. It’s outrageous, as outrageous as I’ve ever seen.” 

Briet said that it’s all part of a tactic to get Zwerner to accept worker’s cmpensation instead of the damages sought by the lawsuit. 

News of the alleged firing of Zwerner comes just days after Deja Taylor, the mother of the student who allegedly shot Zwerner, pleaded guilty to using marijuana while in possession of a firearm, according to the AP. 

Attorney Gene Rossi, who represents Taylor, described the shooting as “a perfect storm of horrible consequences” in which a “brave courageous teacher almost lost her life,” said the AP.  

After Zwerner’s lawsuit was filed, the school district filed a motion to dismiss the suit, alleging that damages fall under worker’s compensation rules, according to CNN. The case is still pending.