The 6-year-old-boy who shot and wounded his teacher in Virginia earlier this month had repeatedly threatened other students earlier that day but school administrators “paralyzed by apathy” refused to intervene, the teacher’s lawyer said Wednesday.
The bullet remains lodged in teacher Abigail Zwerner’s chest, her attorney said, and she faces a lifetime of physical and psychological recovery. Zwerner, 25, on Wednesday filed notice of intent to sue the Newport News School District for failing to respond to repeated threats reported on Jan. 6, according to her lawyer.
“Abby Zwerner was shot in front of those horrified kids and the school and community are living the nightmare, all because the school administration failed to act,” attorney Diane Toscano said. “This should have never happened. It was preventable. And thank God Abby is alive.”
Lawyer alleges school was warned 3 times
Toscano described the three warnings in a statement to reporters. According to the statement:
- The boy had threatened to beat up another child around 11:15 a.m. that day.
- Another teacher around 12:30 p.m. reported to administrators she had searched the boy’s bag because she heard he had a gun. She didn’t find it but suggested he might have pocketed it when he went to recess.
- Another teacher reported to administrators the student had shown a different child the gun and threatened to shoot him if he told.
“Abby and these other teachers tried to do the right thing,” Toscano said. “On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times — three times — school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered.”
What’s next in the case?
Toscano said the school district’s response will be closely watched by both her client and the broader community. She suggested that fighting the lawsuit would indicate teachers are considered disposable.
“How could anyone find the courage to confidently face a class of students again?” Toscano said. “Since they can’t roll back time and undo the callousness of the bureaucracy, they can do the right thing and admit what went wrong and fix it and take care of Abby now.”
More information on 6-year-old who shot teacher
The boy’s mother legally purchased the gun used in the shooting, police have said. The boy’s family said in a statement last week that the gun was “secured.” The family’s attorney, James Ellenson, told The Associated Press that his understanding was that the gun was in the woman’s closet on a shelf well over 6 feet high and had a trigger lock that required a key.
Superintendent George Parker III has said that at least one administrator was told on the day of the shooting that the boy might 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 evening to vote on a separation agreement and severance package for Parker, according to a posted agenda. The board is also scheduled to vote on a new interim superintendent.
Contributing: The Associated Press