(Richmond) A first-grade teacher in Virginia who was shot and seriously injured by her 6-year-old student in January filed a lawsuit Monday seeking $40 million in damages from school officials.
Abby Zwerner, a 25-year-old teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, accuses the school of gross negligence for allegedly ignoring several of the warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun and was a “violent mood”.
Ms Zwerner was shot in the hand and chest on January 6 while sitting at a reading table in her classroom. She has spent nearly two weeks in hospital and has had four surgeries since the shooting.
This event rocked this military shipbuilding community and sent shockwaves across the country, with many wondering how a child so young could gain access to a gun and shoot his teacher.
The lawsuit names as defendants the Newport News School Board, former superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck principal Briana Foster Newton, and former Richneck vice-principal Ebony Parker.
School board spokeswoman Michelle Price, school board president Lisa Surles-Law and other board members did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press. The AP also tried unsuccessfully to reach the former superintendent.
The Associated Press could not immediately find a working phone number for Ms. Newton. His lawyer, Pamela Branch, said her client was unaware of reports that the boy had a gun at school on the day of the shooting.
A school district spokesperson said Newton is still employed by the school district, but declined to say what position she holds. The board also voted to install metal detectors in every school in the district, starting with Richneck, and to purchase see-through backpacks for all students.
In the lawsuit, Ms. Zwerner’s attorneys allege that all of the defendants knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the previous year when he “choked and smothered” his kindergarten teacher.
“All of the defendants knew that John Doe attacked students and teachers, and his motivation to hurt was directed at anyone in his path, both in and out of school, and was not limited to teachers at school. school,” the suit reads.
School officials removed the boy from Richneck and sent him to another school for the rest of the year, but allowed him to return to first grade in the fall of 2022, the lawsuit says. He was placed on a modified schedule “because he chased students around the playground with a belt for the purpose of whipping them with it,” and insulted staff and teachers, the document said. Under the modified schedule, one of the boy’s parents was required to accompany him during the school day.
The boy’s parents had not agreed to place him in special education classes where he would have been with other students with behavioral issues, the suit says.