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VA Teacher Shot By 6-Year-Old Pupil Files $40M Lawsuit Against Officials

Abby Zwerner, a Virginia first-grade teacher who was shot and seriously wounded by her 6-year-old student, filed a lawsuit Monday seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence for allegedly ignoring multiple warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun and was in a “violent mood.” Zwerner, 25, a teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., was shot in the hand and chest on Jan. 6 as she sat at a reading table in her classroom. She spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and has had four surgeries since the shooting, the Associated Press reports. The shooting rattled the military shipbuilding community, with many wondering how a young child could get access to a gun and shoot his teacher. The lawsuit names the Newport News School Board and several school district officials, including former Superintendent George Parker III, as defendants.


No one has been charged in the shooting. The superintendent was fired and the assistant principal resigned. The principal was reassigned to another job. The board voted to install metal detectors in every school in the district and to purchase clear backpacks for all students. In the lawsuit, Zwerner says the defendants knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the year before, when he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher. “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. “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." The boy’s parents did not agree for him to be put in special education classes where he would be with other students with behavioral issues.

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