A first-grade teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student is suing Virginia school officials for $40 million in damages, accusing them of gross negligence for reportedly ignoring several red flags on the day of the shooting, Yahoo! News reports.
On Jan. 6, Abby Zwerner, a 25-year-old teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, was shot in the hand and chest while sitting at a reading table in her classroom, The Shade Room reported at the time.
Teacher Required Four Surgeries, Weeks In Hospital After Shooting, $40 Million Lawsuit Claims
Zwerner required four surgeries and spent almost two weeks at the hospital following the shooting. She reportedly suffered permanent bodily injuries, physical pain, mental anguish, lost earnings and other damages, the lawsuit states, while seeking $40 million in compensatory damages.
The boy was allegedly in a “violent mood” that day, and rumors circulated that he had a gun, however, Zwerner’s lawsuit claims officials did nothing to stop the shooting.
“I thought I had died,” said Zwerner, who indeed almost died after her lung had collapsed. Doctors said the bullet could have killed her, and that she likely survived because she had put up her hands.
This is Abby Zwerner, 25-years-old from Williamsburg, Virginia, the first grade teacher shot by a 6-year-old student in her classroom. She remains in critical condition. Parent Sebastian Gonzalez-Hernandez says Zwerner “screamed at her kids to run away” after the student shot her pic.twitter.com/FmwuithDNw
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) January 7, 2023
Boy Not Facing Any Charges, School District Looks To Implement Metal Detectors, Clear Bags
The lawsuit names the defendants as the Newport News School Board and several school district officials, including former Superintendent George Parker III.
Meanwhile, the boy, who was not publicly named due to his young age, has not been charged with the shooting.
The Associated Press reports that the superintendent has been fired by the school board following the shooting. The assistant principal resigned while the principal was assigned to another school within the district.
The school board also voted to install metal detectors in every school in the district – starting with Richneck – and to purchase and require clear backpacks for all students.
Zwerner’s attorneys claim the defendants were already aware that the boy “had a history of random violence” both at school and at home.
The lawsuit states that he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher a year before the shooting.
BREAKING: Abby Zwerner, @nnschools first-grade teacher who was shot by her student, is requesting a TRIAL BY JURY.
She has filed a $40M lawsuit against school administrators. The child’s parents are not included in this lawsuit.
— Penny Kmitt (@pennylikeacoin) April 3, 2023
“All Defendants knew that John Doe attacked students and teachers alike, and his motivation to injure was directed toward anyone in his path, both in and out of school, and was not limited to teachers while at the school,” the lawsuit states.
RELATED: Virginia Teacher In ‘Stable Condition’ After Being Struck By 6-Year-Old Student While Attempting To Confiscate Firearm
Boy Placed On Modified Schedule, Parent Now Must Accompany Him Throughout The Day
The boy was removed from Richneck by school officials and assigned to another school for the rest of the year, however, he was eventually allowed to return for first grade in the fall of 2022, the lawsuit reads.
He was put on a modified schedule for cursing out teachers and “chasing students around the playground with a belt in an effort to whip them with it,” according to the lawsuit.
One of the boy’s parents also had to accompany him throughout the school day as well under the modified schedule.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that concerns about the boy’s behavior were regularly brought to the attention of school officials, yet “the concerns were always dismissed.”
BREAKING NEWS: Abby Zwerner filed a $40-million lawsuit against Newport News Public School administrators. Police say a 6-year-old boy shot Zwerner in their classroom in January. Zwerner's attorneys made the announcement of the lawsuit this morning. pic.twitter.com/sU9nFifSVV
— Katie Collett (@KatieCollettTV) April 3, 2023
“Teachers’ concerns with John Doe’s behavior (were) regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed,” the lawsuit states. Often after he was taken to the office, “he would return to class shortly thereafter with some type of reward, such as a piece of candy,” according to the lawsuit.
Last month, Newport News prosecutor Howard Gwynn announced the boy would not be criminally charged due to the fact that he wouldn’t understand the legal system.
However, Gwynn has yet to rule out charges for the boy’s parents, as he used his mother’s gun.
Police did confirm the firearm was purchased legally, and an attorney for the boy’s family said that the gun had been secured on a closet shelf with a lock on it.