Virginia school administrators warned 3 times of possible gun before 6-year-old shot teacher, lawyer says

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The lawyer for the Virginia first-grade teacher who was shot by her student on Jan. 6 announced Wednesday that she will be filing a lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools.

During a press conference, Virginia trial lawyer Diane Toscano said she sent a notice to the Newport News School Board of the intent to file a lawsuit on Abby Zwerner’s behalf.

Toscano says she communicates daily with Zewrner, who is home recovering.

Zwerner was teaching a class at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6 when police say she was shot and critically injured by the 6-year-old student. Zwerner was released from Riverside Regional Medical Center last week after showing signs of continued improvement, the hospital confirmed to Nexstar’s WAVY.

Zwerner’s lawyer, however, said her client still has a long road to recovery. Her “psychological wounds” will be long-lasting, Toscano added.

She also said the bullet that struck Zwerner in her chest remains “dangerously” inside her body and that Zwerner is between surgeries and therapy appointments.

According to Toscano, Zwerner and the other teachers at Richneck Elementary School tried to do the right thing on the day of the shooting. Over the course of the day, Toscano said the school’s administration was warned three times by teachers and employees that the 6-year-old may have had a gun.

The first incident of the day occurred between 11:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. when Zwerner went to a school administrator and said the 6-year-old had threatened to beat up another child. Toscano said the school administration did not call security or remove the student from the classroom after the incident.

Around 12:30 p.m., another teacher went to a school administrator and told them she searched the backpack of the 6-year-old, who at the time was rumored to have brought a gun to school, Zwerner’s lawyer said.

The teacher then told the administrator that she believed the 6-year-old put the gun in his pocket before going out to recess. The administrator then downplayed the report they received from the teacher saying, “Well, he has little pockets,” according to Zwerner’s lawyer.

Toscano said a third warning came shortly after 1 p.m. when another teacher told administrators that one of the students began crying, claiming that the 6-year-old showed him the gun at recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.

Toscano claims the administrators did not follow the necessary safety protocols and did not call the police after the teachers raised concerns.

When a fourth employee heard about a possible weapon, he asked an administrator if she could search the boy but was denied. Toscano said administrators then told that employee to wait the situation out because the school day was almost over.

Almost an hour later, Zwerner was shot in her classroom by the 6-year-old, Toscano said.

Toscano ended the press conference by alleging that the shooting would have been “entirely preventable” if the school’s administrators had taken action when they learned the boy may have had a gun.

The parents of the child accused in this incident issued a statement last week, claiming the firearm the child accessed was secured and that they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”

There is no information yet on how the child got access to the weapon.

It is unlikely the first-grader will face charges due to his age, and no charges have been filed against his parents. The investigation is ongoing.

Richneck Elementary School has been closed since the shooting. The district announced that students will return to class Monday, Jan. 30. An orientation was scheduled for this Wednesday, Jan. 25, to begin the transition back to school.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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