Abby Zwerner/Facebook
Abby Zwerner

Teacher shot by 6-year-old first grader sues Newport News (Va.) school officials

April 3, 2023
Abby Zwerner, 25, shot and wounded in January in her first-grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School, contends that administrators failed to intervene despite multiple warnings that the student had a gun.

A Virginia first-grade teacher contends in a $40 million lawsuit that administrators at her Newport News school failed to heed multiple warnings that a 6-year-old student had a gun before the boy shot and wounded her in January.

The Washington Post reports that Abigail Zwerner, 25, is suing the former principal and assistant principal at Richneck Elementary School, the Newport News school board and former superintendent George Parker III for gross negligence and failure to report the weapon to authorities.

Following the Jan. 6 shooting, the Newport News school board ousted superintendent Parker, and Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned in the wake of the shooting. (They are not related.) Principal Briana Foster Newton, who has denied receiving warnings about the gun, was assigned to a new job.

The lawsuit asserts that concerned teachers and school employees warned Assistant Principal Parker three different times on Jan. 6 that the first-grade student had a gun. Zwerner says she also told Assistant Principal Parker in the hours before the shooting that the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergartner and was in a “violent mood.”

Zwerner says in the suit that the boy had a “history of random violence." Two days before the shooting, the boy smashed the teacher's phone and called her and others an inappropriate name.

On the day of the shooting, a student told a teacher that the 6-year-old had shown him a gun on the playground at recess, threatening to shoot him if he told anyone, according to the lawsuit. That teacher relayed the information to the assistant principal through an intermediary, the suit says.

A guidance counselor also warned the assistant principal about the boy possibly having a weapon about 45 minutes before the shooting, the suit says. 

The 6-year-old pulled out the gun and shot Zwerner as she taught her first-grade class shortly before 2 p.m. Zwerner was shot through the hand and in the chest. She was hospitalized for about two weeks and is recovering from her injuries.

Prosecutors have said the boy is too young to face criminal charges; an investigation is continuing on whether anyone else will be charged in connection with the shooting.

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