Administrators at a Virginia elementary school were warned on three separate occasions about a first-grade student carrying a gun but failed to act before he shot his teacher, the teacher’s lawyer said Wednesday.
Diane Toscano, the attorney for Richneck Elementary School teacher Abigail Zwerner, alleged that school administrators were warned multiple times about the gun, but were “paralyzed by apathy” and refused to call the police or lock down the school, the Associated Press reported. Toscano also revealed that her client will sue the Newport News school district after she was shot by a 6-year-old boy while teaching on January 6.
“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.
Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker told parents at a meeting earlier this month that “at least one” school official knew of a potential gun on the school’s campus before the shooting.
Zwerner first approached an administrator around 11:15 a.m. the day of the shooting and said the 6-year-old threatened to beat another student up. Toscano said that the school official did not take any action after Zwerner expressed her concern.
According to the lawyer, one of Zwerner’s colleagues told a school administrator around noon that she searched the boy’s bookbag and said that she believed he put the gun in his pocket before recess. The administrator “downplayed” the teacher’s suspicion, saying that the boy “has little pockets,” Toscano said.
An hour later, yet another teacher told a school administrator that the boy showed one of his classmates the gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone. The classmate who was threatened came to his teacher “crying and fearful,” according to Zwerner’s lawyer, but school officials still did nothing.
Another school employee warned the administration for a third time that the 6-year-old student might have a gun and asked an administrator to search the boy, but the administrator allegedly refused.
“What did administrators do?” Toscano asked at a news conference Wednesday. “Did administrators call the police? No. Did administrators lock down the school? No. Did administrators evacuate the building? No. Did they confront the student? No.”
At around 2:00 p.m., the 6-year-old student aimed the gun at his 25-year-old teacher and fired one round into her chest in front of the whole class. Zwerner continues to recover at home after being hospitalized for two weeks, the AP reported.
“Three weeks ago, Abby was a cheery young woman with a big heart and loved educating young people — she had a very bright future and a career she loved,” Toscano said. “Today, she is between surgeries and physical therapy appointments, with a career in question. How could anyone find the courage to confidently face a class of students again?”