Newport Press School tipped off before teacher was shot dead by child: lawyer

The 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher in Virginia earlier this month had repeatedly threatened other students earlier in the day, but school administrators ‘paralyzed with apathy’ refused to ‘intervene,’ the teacher’s attorney said Wednesday.

The bullet remains lodged in teacher Abigail Zwerner’s chest, her lawyer said, and she faces a lifetime of physical and psychological recovery. Zwerner, 25, on Wednesday filed a notice of intent to sue the Newport News School District for failing to respond to repeated threats reported Jan. 6, according to his attorney.

“Abby Zwerner was shot in front of these horrified children and the school and community are living through a nightmare, all because the school administration failed to act,” attorney Diane Toscano said. “It should never have happened. It was preventable. And thank goodness Abby is alive.”

PREVIOUSLY:6-year-old shot teacher in Virginia, police say: What we know about teacher’s condition, what happens next

PREVIOUSLY:The school knew a 6-year-old might have a gun before Virginia fired, but did not find it during the search

Lawyer claims school was notified 3 times

Toscano described the three warnings in a statement to reporters. According to the statement:

  1. The boy had threatened to beat up another child around 11:15 a.m. that day, and Zwerner went to see an administrator.
  2. At around 12:30 p.m., another teacher reported to administrators that she had searched the boy’s bag because she had heard he had a gun. She couldn’t find it but suggested he might have pocketed it when he went to recess.
  3. Another teacher reported to administrators that the student showed the gun to another child and threatened to shoot him if he said so.

“Abby and these other teachers tried to do the right thing,” Toscano said. “That day, within a few hours, three times – three times – the school administration was tipped off by worried teachers and staff that the boy had a gun on him at school and was threatening people. But the administration couldn’t be bothered.”

What’s next in the case?

Toscano said the school district’s response will be closely watched by both its client and the wider community. She suggested that fighting the lawsuit would indicate that teachers are seen as disposable.

“How could anyone find the courage to confidently face a class of students again?” Toscano said. “Since they can’t turn back time and undo the insensitivity of bureaucracy, they can do the right thing and admit what went wrong, fix it, and take care of Abby now.”

More on the 6-year-old who shot a teacher

The boy’s mother legally purchased the gun used in the shooting, police said. The boy’s family said in a statement last week that the gun was “secure”. Family attorney James Ellenson told The Associated Press he understood the gun was in the woman’s closet on a shelf more than 6 feet high and had a trigger lock that required a key.

The family also said in their statement that the boy suffered from an “acute disability” and was the subject of a care plan “which provided for his mother or father to attend school with him and accompany him in class every day. The week of the shooting was the first that a parent was not in class with him, the family said.

Superintendent George Parker III said at least one administrator was told on the day of the shooting that the boy may have had a weapon, but no weapon was found when his backpack was searched.

The Newport News School Board will hold a special meeting Wednesday night to vote on a separation agreement and severance package for Parker, according to a posted agenda. The board must also vote on a new acting superintendent.

Contributor: The Associated Press

USA Today

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