Vicky Arias, FISM News
School officials ignored warnings that the six-year-old boy who shot his teacher earlier this month may have been armed, an attorney for the teacher said Wednesday.
On Jan. 6, Abigail Zwerner, an elementary teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, was shot in her classroom by one of her six-year-old students. Upon hearing the shot, a female employee of the school ran into the classroom and restrained the child, who allegedly shot Zwerner in the chest as she was teaching.
Zwerner, who is being described as a hero, was able to lead the other children safely out of the classroom, despite her injuries. The teacher is currently recovering at home following a nearly two-week hospital stay.
Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, on Wednesday announced that her client is planning to sue the school district.
Toscano said that on the day Zwerner was shot, school administrators were warned on three different occasions that the young shooter had a gun.
“On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times, three times, school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered,” Toscano said.
The contract for George Parker III, the school district’s superintendent, was terminated on Wednesday as a result of the incident.
Just before lunchtime on the day of the incident, Zwerner claims she told a school official that the six-year-old boy had threatened to beat up another student but was not taken seriously. Soon after, another teacher told an administrator that she had searched the boy’s bookbag looking for a gun but thought the child may have put the weapon in his pocket.
According to Toscano, the administrator dismissed the teacher’s suspicions, saying that the boy had “little pockets.”
A different teacher expressed concern to school officials when a different student reported to the teacher that the young boy had shown him his gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he said anything.
Still another employee of the school claimed to hear a rumor that the child was carrying a gun, and asked a school official if he should search the boy, but was told to wait since the school day was nearly finished, Toscano explained.
In each of the three reports of concerned employees, school officials ignored the warnings, says Toscano.
“This tragedy was entirely preventable if the school administrator responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger,” said Toscano.
Law enforcement is still investigating the incident. The gun used by the child, a 9mm Taurus firearm, belonged to his mother, who had purchased it legally. Authorities are unsure how the child obtained the weapon. While it is highly unlikely that the boy will face charges, the child’s parents could be charged with a misdemeanor in the state of Virginia if they are found to have not properly secured the handgun.
According to the New York Times, the child has an “acute disability” and the parents had been attending class with him until the week of the shooting.
In a statement, the family explained that they “will regret [their] absence on [that] day for the rest of [their] lives.”
The boy allegedly had a history of violent behavior, reportedly threatening to light someone on fire and throwing furniture, according to the Washington Post.
Cindy Connell, a teacher in Newport News, Virginia commented on the apparent carelessness of the school administrators.
“This is just another example of administrators not listening to the concerns of teachers, and the only reason we’re talking about this one is because Abby Zwerner got shot,” Connell said.