Administrators at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, are facing mounting trouble as an attorney for teacher Abigail Zwerner reveals more evidence appearing to indicate the boy who brought a pistol to school and shot his teacher had a history of violent behavior and should not have been allowed to attend class.
The reported facts seem surreal. RTM previously reported:
- A six-year-old boy threatened to “catch his teacher on fire and watch her die.”
- The boy’s teacher, Abigail Zwerner, wrote to administrators about the boy’s violent behavior, stating, “I do not feel comfortable with him returning to my classroom.”
- The boy was to be accompanied by his parents but was not accompanied the week of the incident.
- The boy brought a gun to school; administrators were alerted but did not take action.
- Zwerner became aware of the weapon and asked for assistance. Administrators took no action.
- The boy shot Zwerner in the chest. The teacher moved to protect her students, first telling some to take cover and then leading the class to safety before being rushed to a hospital.
Today’s legal filing indicates the young boy’s history of violence also included assaulting another teacher in 2021 — choking her “until she couldn’t breathe,” according to the filing.
The New York Post reports that the teacher has confirmed the 2021 attack. According to the legal filing, the teacher promptly reported the incident to school officials and did not receive the support she expected.
According to the Associated Press, when sitting in a chair in front of her class, the boy came up from behind, locked his forearms in front of her neck and choked her.
The teacher, taken off guard, quickly lost her breath and was in danger of passing out. A teaching assistant forced the boy to release his chokehold and pulled him away.
The teacher shared her comments on the condition of anonymity because she feared retaliation from the school district. The teacher reportedly said:
“I didn’t feel safe the rest of the year because I knew if they didn’t protect me when he choked me and I couldn’t breathe, then they wouldn’t protect me, my kids, or my colleagues, if he did something not as harmful.”
School officials transferred the boy to another school.
Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano argues that school officials were aware the boy had a history of extreme violence and did not provide staff with adequate safeguards.
The legal filing notes the boy’s constant cursing at teachers, trying to whip students with his belt and angry outbursts — slamming and breaking the teacher’s cell phone just two days before the shooting — are just a few of the indications that significant safeguards should have been in place.
Noting how students at the school were put at risk, Toscano wrote: “It is a miracle that more people were not harmed. The shooter spent his entire recess with a gun in his pocket, a gun that was loaded and ready to fire … while lots of first-grade students played.”
Toscano accuses school administrators of negligence. Her legal filing reportedly includes a detailed and damning timeline noting that Zwerner, three other teachers and a guidance counselor shared concerns about the boy having a gun the day of the shooting.
Toscano asserts that if then-Assistant Principal Ebony Parker “had acted on the information she was provided, then the shooting of Ms. Zwerner would not have happened.”
Zwerner reportedly went to Parker’s office at about 11:15 a.m. “to advise her that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood.” Zwerner reportedly shared that the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergarten student and “angrily stared down” the school security officer in the lunch room.
According to the filing, at about 11:45 a.m. another teacher learned the boy had bragged to students that he had a gun in his backpack. The teacher searched the backpack a short time later but found no weapon.
The filing notes that, later, the same teacher “was made aware that the shooter had taken something out of his backpack right before she searched the shooter’s backpack, and the shooter put it in the pocket of his hoodie before going out to recess.”
Reportedly, when that teacher raised concerns, the assistant principal said the student “had small pockets, insinuating that he could not possibly have a gun on his person,” the legal filing noted. School administrators took no action to protect Zwerner or her students.
The filing states that, at approximately 1 p.m., a third teacher learned from a student that the shooter showed him the gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.
That teacher reported the news to the office in the hearing of a fourth teacher who picked up the phone. However, when the information was relayed to Parker, the teacher was told the boy’s backpack had been searched and there was no weapon found.
The filing notes that the third and fourth teachers discussed the matter, and the fourth teacher decided to readdress the matter with Parker. When entering the office, she found a guidance counselor there raising similar concerns about a gun on campus.
According to the filing, when the guidance counselor asked Parker for permission to search the child for a weapon, Parker replied, “no, because the child’s mother was arriving soon to pick him up.”
The shooting took place approximately 45 minutes later.
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