Abigail Zwerner, a Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6-year-old student earlier this year, is suing her school’s administrators for $40 million, claiming they failed to protect her against the violent child!
On Monday, People obtained a copy of the 20-page complaint in which the 25-year-old teacher of Newport News named several defendants in her lawsuit, including the School Board of Richneck Elementary School (where the attack took place), former schools Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck Principal Briana Foster Newton, and former Richneck Vice Principal Ebony Parker.
In the filing, the teacher alleged the vice principal was warned several times by various teachers on the day of the shooting that the child was behaving violently and reportedly had a gun on him, yet action wasn’t taken. Because of this, Abigail claims Ebony broke “her assumed duty” to protect Abigail “despite multiple reports that a firearm was on school property and likely in possession of a violent individual.” Zwerner now suffers from “physical pain and mental anguish.”
The lawsuit also included more details about the unnamed student. The school year prior, the then-five-year-old allegedly strangled and choked a teacher, reportedly causing him to be removed from the elementary school. He was allowed to return for this current school year. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last of the allegations against him…
He was also accused of several other alleged incidents, such as inappropriately touching a classmate during recess, cursing at both classmates and teachers, and chasing students around with a belt, threatening to hurt them, per the lawsuit. Because of this pattern of violent behavior, the first grader was required to attend school with a parent accompanying him… however, on the day of the shooting, no parent was present. (His family has since apologized for their absence.)
Abigail’s lawsuit goes on to call out the administrators at Richneck Elementary School for not doing enough to shut down the problematic behavior before this near-death incident:
“Teachers’ concerns with John Doe’s behavior was regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed. Often when he was taken to the school office to address his behavior, he would return to the classroom shortly thereafter with some type of reward, such as a piece of candy.”
According to the legal docs, on January 6, the day of the shooting, Zwerner told the VP that the student was in a “violent mood” and threatening to physically harm another child. Another teacher was also allegedly told by two students that the 6-year-old had a gun. This same teacher then told Parker she saw the child with an object in his sweatshirt. The teacher also searched the boy’s backpack but didn’t find a weapon.
A third educator then allegedly told the vice principal the student showed a gun to another student at recess and threatened to “hurt him if he told anyone,” per the complaint. A fourth employee later asked permission to search the child for the gun, but the vice principal allegedly stopped them from doing so. Whaaat??
The child then used the gun at around 1:59 p.m. while in Abigail’s classroom. As she sat at the reading table, he pointed the gun at her. She lifted her hand and the bullet went through her hand and chest. She told Today late last month:
“It could’ve been fatal. We believe — with my hand being up, with it going through my hand first — we believe that, by the bullet going through the hand first, that it most likely saved my life.”
While the 6-year-old was taken into custody shortly after the shooting, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News in early March the child would not face charges since the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic.” At this time, the Newport News School Board and the Newport News School District have not commented on the lawsuit. That said, Jeffrey Breit, one of Abigail’s lawyers who discussed the lawsuit on Monday’s episode of Today, said the school is likely going to argue this should be a workers’ compensation claim and that workers can’t sue their own employers in Virginia, but he thinks this case is “an exception,” explaining:
“No 6-year-old student is really going to be a risk of shooting a teacher. It’s not part of their job. It’s not a night 7-Eleven worker. So, I think the worker’s comp defense will fail.”
You can hear more about the lawsuit (below).
We’re sure there will be a lot more to come as this legal battle takes off… In the meantime, we continue to wish Abigail well as she heals from this traumatic experience.
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