Teacher allegedly shot by 6-year-old warned Newport News school officials the boy had a gun, her attorney says | CNN


Abby Zwerner, the teacher who was allegedly shot by a 6-year-old boy at an elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, warned school administrators the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun, according to her attorney.

“Abby and these other teachers at Richneck Elementary School tried to do the right thing on January 6,” attorney Diane Toscano said at a news conference Wednesday, alleging that administrators were warned three times in the course of a few hours that “The boy had a note of it at school and was threatening people.”

“But the administration couldn’t be bothered,” Toscano said, telling reporters that he intends to file a lawsuit on Zwerner’s behalf.

“This tragedy was entirely preventable if school administrators responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when aware of imminent danger,” Toscano said. “But instead they didn’t act and they shot Abby.”

CNN has reached out to the school district for comment on Toscano’s claims, which come the same day the Newport News school board plans to vote on whether to oust the district’s superintendent following the shooting nearly three weeks ago.

A 6-year-old boy was taken into custody Jan. 6 after he brought his mother’s legally purchased gun to school in his backpack and shot his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, police said at the time.

Zwerner, 25, was initially in critical condition and later stabilized before being released from the hospital after a bullet passed through her hand and chest inside her classroom. Police have said the shooting was intentional.

Since the shooting, the school board has had several meetings, including a heated one last week in which members faced backlash from parents. The school board also met in a closed discussion on Tuesday, after which they decided to host a special meeting on Wednesday.

The members are scheduled to discuss, and likely approve, a severance and severance agreement with Superintendent George Parker III at Wednesday’s meeting, according to the agenda posted on the school board’s website.

Board members also plan to discuss the appointment of an interim superintendent.

CNN has reached out to Parker’s office for comment.

The school will reopen on January 30, nearly a month after the shooting, school officials confirmed to CNN in an email earlier this week.

During the intense board meeting with parents on January 17, emotions ran high as frustrated parents spoke about the fear and anxiety their children have been enduring since the gun violence. At least one parent called for the superintendent’s position to be reevaluated.

“Why did it get negative national attention before you took this seriously and reassessed it?” the father asked. “I think it is time for the citizens and parents of Newport News who did not elect him to re-evaluate his services as our superintendent.”

The shooting came as the United States continues to grapple with the pervasive problem of gun violence that permeates many public spaces across the country.

The Richneck Elementary shooting was the first of 2023 at a US school, according to a CNN analysis. In 2022, there were 60 shootings at K-12 schools, CNN analysis shows.

Still, school shootings by such a young suspect are very rare.

There have been three other cases in which the suspect was as young as 6: in 2000, 2011 and 2021, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, which has tracked shootings in American schools since 1970.

The elementary school shooting occurred after an altercation between the teacher and the student, who pointed the gun at the teacher and fired a single round, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said.

“There was no physical fighting or fighting,” Drew said at the time, adding that no other students were involved.

The boy was placed under a temporary detention order and was evaluated at a local hospital.

Nearly two weeks after the shooting, the boy’s family issued their first statement, expressing praise for the teacher.

“Our hearts go out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her healing after such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children at school,” the family said in the statement issued through attorney James Ellenson. .

The family noted that their son has a disability and was receiving care at school.

“Our son is acutely disabled and was under a care plan at school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day,” the family’s statement said.

The family also said that the weapon allegedly used was secured before the shooting. They said a family member used to go to class with him, but not the week of the shooting.

“We will mourn our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the family’s statement read.

Meanwhile, the police chief has indicated that the boy’s mother could possibly face charges in the shooting.

“And at the end of the day, when everything is compiled and the facts and what the law supports, the attorney for the Commonwealth will make the decision if charges are brought … against the parents,” Drew said.

Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a loaded and unsecured firearm in such a way as to endanger a child under 14 years of age. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a weapon. firearm.

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