Virginia School Board Responds To Lawsuit From Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student

Norfolk, Virginia According to court records filed on Wednesday, the Virginia school district where a 6-year-old shot his teacher contends that her injuries come under the state’s workers’ compensation legislation and cannot be covered by her $40 million lawsuit.

The Newport News School Board responded to Abigail Zwerner’s complaint by claiming she was “clearly injured while at work, at her place of employment, by a student in the classroom.” The school board wants the case dismissed.

The school board also disregarded Zwerner’s assertion that she could expect to work with young children who are safe, citing several instances of violence against teachers in Newport News and throughout the United States.

“While in an ideal world, young children would not pose any danger to others, including their teachers, this is sadly not reality,” the filing stated.

Zwerner, 25, was shot on January 6 while seated at a reading table in her first-grade class at Richneck Elementary. She was struck in the hand and the chest.

She was hospitalized for about two weeks, underwent four surgeries, and later admitted to NBC News that she occasionally “can’t get out of bed.”

Virginia School Board Responds To Lawsuit From Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student

With his mother’s gun, the youngster shot Zwerner. Additionally, his mother has been accused of felony abandonment and irresponsible firearm storage, but the boy won’t be punished.

The school board announced on Wednesday that Zwerner’s application for workers’ compensation, which covers injuries “without having to prove negligence,” had been approved. It provides lifetime medical care for injuries and up to 500 weeks of compensation.

The board claimed that Zwerner has refused to accept it. At the start of April, she filed her lawsuit.

The latest repercussion of the massacre, which rocked Newport News, a shipbuilding community of about 185,000 people close to the Chesapeake Bay, is the school board’s answer to Zwerner’s lawsuit.

Zwerner charges school administrators with egregious carelessness and says they disregarded many warnings on the day of the shooting.

The youngster “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, according to Zwerner’s counsel, including an incident the year before in which he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.

According to Zwerner’s lawsuit, school administrators disallowed the boy’s return for first grade in the autumn of 2022 but transferred him to another school instead.

According to the report, he was put on a modified schedule “because he was cursing staff and teachers and chasing students around the playground with a belt in an effort to whip them.”

“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.

The school board responded to Zwerner’s assertions that the youngster shouldn’t have continued in her class in its submission on Wednesday.

The school board claimed that the youngster was currently undergoing evaluation and treatment for potential ADHD, which results in inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The committee stated that the possible attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder assessment was incomplete.

State and federal regulations would have been in effect even if he had been determined to require additional support “for the purpose of keeping such children in the classroom with their peers when possible.”

According to Zwerner’s lawsuit, school staff members warned administrators in the hours before the shooting, starting with Zwerner, who informed the assistant principal that the boy “was in a violent mood,” had threatened to hit a kindergartener, and had glared down a security guard in the lunchroom.

The lawsuit claims that two pupils warned a reading specialist that the youngster was carrying a gun in his backpack.

According to the lawsuit, Zwerner claimed she witnessed the youngster take something out of his backpack and place it in the pocket of his hoodie.

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No weapon was found when his bag was searched. The boy’s “pockets were too small to hold a handgun and did nothing,” the assistant principal claimed, according to Zwerner’s lawsuit.

The school board contends in its petition from this past Wednesday that the Zwerners’ lawsuit “strategically focuses on the use of a handgun as opposed to some other weapon with less perceived notoriety and shock value.”

“If the allegations in the complaint substituted ‘sharp scissors’ for ‘gun’ and John Doe stabbed (Zwerner) in the neck in the classroom, there would be no doubt that the injury would fall under workers’ compensation,” the school board argues.

The Newport News School Board, former Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck Principal Briana Foster-Newton, and former Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker are also defendants in the case.

Attorney Anne C. Lahren of the firm Pender & Coward filed the document on Wednesday on behalf of the board, George Parker, and Foster-Newtown.

Ebony Parker has retained a different counsel, whose response to Zwerner’s case is not yet due, and was not represented in the filing.

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