RICHMOND, Va. – A 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot and injured his first-grade teacher constantly insulted staff and teachers, tried to whip students with his belt and once choked another teacher “until until she can’t breathe.” according to a legal notice filed by an attorney for the injured teacher.
The incidents were described in a notice sent to the Newport News School District by Diane Toscano, attorney for teacher Abby Zwerner, notifying the district that Zwerner intends to sue. The Notice of Claim, which was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, describes the boy’s prior behavioral issues at Richneck Elementary School and the troubling interactions he had with teachers and students.
Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner’s cell phone and broke it, according to the notice of claim. He was suspended for a day, but when he returned to Zwerner’s class the next day, he pulled a 9mm handgun from his pocket and shot her as she sat at a table. of reading, says the notice.
“It’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt,” Toscano wrote in his review. “The shooter spent his entire recess with a gun in his pocket, a gun loaded and ready to fire … while many first graders played.”
The choking incident described in the notice has been confirmed by this teacher. She said in 2021 the boy came up behind her as she sat in a chair in front of the class, locked his forearms in front of her neck and pulled back and down, hard. She said a teaching assistant removed the boy from her.
The teacher requested anonymity because she fears possible retaliation from the school district. She said she reported the incident to school administrators but did not receive the kind of supportive response she was hoping for from them.
“I didn’t feel safe the rest of the year because I knew that if they didn’t protect me when he was choking me and I couldn’t breathe, they wouldn’t protect me, my children or my colleagues if he was doing something not as harmful,” she told The Associated Press.
The boy was then transferred to another class at another school.
After the shooting, police said, the boy was taken to a medical facility where he is receiving unspecified services.
The legal opinion sent fleshed out Zwerner’s allegations of negligence to Richneck on the morning of Jan. 6, which Toscano first outlined last month at a press conference.
A detailed timeline outlines how Zwerner, three other teachers and a guidance counselor were involved in airing concerns about the child possibly having a gun.
“Had Deputy Principal (Ebony) Parker acted on the information provided to her, the shooting of Ms. Zwerner would not have occurred,” the notice read.
Zwerner went to former assistant manager Parker’s office around 11:15 a.m. “to inform him that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood.” It also says the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergarten student and “glared angrily” at the school security guard in the lunch hall.
At around 11:45 a.m., another teacher learned that the boy had told students he had a gun in his backpack, the notice said. The teacher searched the backpack around 12:30 p.m. but found no weapon.
The same teacher “was informed that the shooter had taken something out of his backpack just before searching it, and the shooter put the object in the pocket of his hoodie before going out for recess”, indicates the ‘notice.
When that teacher raised his concerns with Parker, the vice-principal said the student “had small pockets, implying that he could not have had a weapon on him,” the notice of complaint read.
“Vice Principal Parker should have called the police,” the notice read. “Instead, she failed to follow proper protocol and chose to do nothing.”
Shortly after 1 p.m., a third teacher learned from a student in Zwerner’s class that the shooter had shown him the gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone. , says the notice.
This teacher called the school office and shared what she knew with a fourth teacher who picked up the office phone, the notice said. The fourth teacher passed the information on to Parker, who said she was aware of the threat and that the student’s backpack had been searched.
The third and fourth teachers conferred again. And the fourth teacher returned to Parker’s office, where a guidance counselor was raising similar concerns about the student with a gun, the notice said.
The guidance counselor asked if he could search the child for a weapon, to which Parker replied “no” because the child’s mother was soon arriving to pick him up, the notice said.
“Then, approximately 45 minutes later, Ms. Zwerner was shot in the left hand and upper chest by the shooter,” the notice read. “SP. Zwerner was sitting at her reading table when the shooter, who was sitting at her desk, took the gun out of her pocket and shot her once.
Parker, who resigned from his post last month, could not immediately be reached for comment. A school district spokeswoman said she did not know if Parker had retained an attorney.
Len Wallin, director of legal services for the school system, said in an email that it is standard practice for the school division to forward notices of intent to sue its insurer, which handles such disputes.
Wallin said the district’s insurer will make decisions about whether he will represent Parker “after consultation with the school board, if necessary.”
Meanwhile, Toscano wrote in his review that Zwerner continues to recover physically and from psychological injuries that “cut deep and stay fresh.”
“I hope the school district does not want to drag Ms. Zwerner into litigation after the trauma she suffered,” Toscano wrote.
“The school district’s response is going to be very important and will shed light on how it views its teachers,” Toscano continued. I hope the school district doesn’t send the message that getting shot while teaching a class lesson by a student is just a job hazard.