Abigail Zwerner, a Virginia teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student, can proceed with a $40 million lawsuit against Newport News school officials for failing to act on warnings to prevent the shooting, a judge ruled. The school board had moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that Zwerner, 26, was entitled only to worker's compensation because the injuries she endured from the shooting "arose out of and in the course of her employment." Judge Matthew Hoffman sided with Zwerner, saying, "The danger of being shot by a student is not one that is peculiar or unique to the job of a first-grade teacher." The ruling means Zwerner could receive compensation of more than the 10 years of pay and lifetime medical care she is eligible for under the Virginia Worker's Compensation Act, reports USA Today.
The school board disagreed with the ruling. Anne Lahren, an attorney for the board, said, "The actual risk of employment in this scenario is that of a teacher being injured at the hands of a student which, unfortunately, is a fairly common occurrence and one that is only increasing in frequency this day and age." Zwerner filed the suit after the student shot her with his mother's gun in a Richneck Elementary School classroom in January. A bullet went through Zwerner's hand and entered her chest, forcing her to undergo four surgeries and spend nearly two weeks in a hospital. Zwerner resigned in March. Zwerner accused the school board of "negligence, gross negligence and reckless disregard in their refusal to report that a student illegally carried a firearm onto school property."