UPDATE: Newport News Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student Has Resigned

The Richneck teacher’s last day was Monday. She was shot in the hand and chest and has gone through multiple surgeries.

UPDATE: Newport News Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student Has Resigned

Photo: @13NewsNow Twitter

UPDATE June 14, 2023: Abigail Zwerner, the first grade teacher shot by one of six-year-old students in January, has resigned from her position at Richneck Elementary School.

Monday was the last day of her teaching contract, reports the Associated Press. District officials said Zwerner, 25, notified them in March that she wouldn’t be returning for the 2023-2024 year. However, her attorney characterized her leaving as a firing.

She was shot in the hand and chest by a six-year-old student. Because of the shooting, Zwerner spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and had to go through multiple surgeries.

UPDATE April 3, 2023: Abigail Zwerner, the teacher who was shot by one of her first-grade students in January, has filed a $40 million lawsuit, claiming Richneck Elementary School administrators ignored multiple warnings that the boy who shot her had a gun and posed an imminent threat.

She is suing former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker, the Newport News School Board, former Superintendent George Parker III, and former Principal Briana Foster Newton, reports NBC News.

The lawsuit also reveals new information about the shooter, identified as John Doe. He allegedly had a history of troubling behavior, including strangling and choking a teacher, inappropriate touching of another child, chasing other students around the playground with a belt, and cursing at teachers and staff members.

UPDATE MARCH 10, 2023: The attorney general for Newport News, Virginia confirmed to WTKR that the 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher in January will not be charged with aggravated assault. Attorney General Howard Gwynn, however, did indicate that other charges are possible and that the shooting is still being investigated.

UPDATE JANUARY 26, 2023: The teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student at Richneck Elementary School on January 6 had texted a loved one before the shooting, saying the boy was armed but school officials weren’t responding.

The source told NBC News that the teacher, Abby Zwerner, 25, told the source the boy said he had a gun in his backpack and she warned Richneck officials, but they didn’t help. An hour later, the boy shot her.

And in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, an attorney for Zwerner added specific details to the teacher’s claims that in the hours before the shooting, concerned Richneck school staff warned campus administrators three times that the student had a gun and was threatening other students, reports the Associated Press. The attorney said the victim plans to sue the school district over the shooting.

Specifically, AP reports that Zwerner claims she reported to administrators that at 11:15 a.m. on the day of the shooting, the boy threatened to beat up another child but nothing was done. Then about an hour later, another teacher told administrators she searched the boy’s backpack but didn’t find anything, telling them she believed the child put the weapon in his pocket before she searched his bag. Then at 1 p.m., another teacher reported to an administrator that a different student was “crying and fearful” after the boy showed the student his gun. Another employee who asked an administrator to search the six-year-old was turned down. An hour after that, Zwerner was shot by the student.

Last week, it was reported by the Washington Post that school administrators had downplayed earlier warnings from Zwerner and other teachers about the child despite repeated requests for assistance.

According to messages from a fellow unidentified teacher at Richneck, in one instance, the boy “wrote a note telling a teacher he hated her and wanted to light her on fire and watch her die.” When school officials were told about the threat, the teacher was told to drop the matter.

On another occasion, “the boy threw furniture and other items in class, prompting students to hide beneath their desks.” At yet another time, the same child “barricaded the doors to a classroom, preventing a teacher and students from leaving.”

Original January 17, 2023 article:

Newport News, Virginia – It turns out that at least one Richneck Elementary School administrator was notified that the six-year-old student who allegedly shot his teacher might have had a weapon on him hours before the attack happened.

That fact was revealed by Superintendent Dr. George Parker on Thursday during a virtual town hall with Richneck parents, reports WAVY. The boy’s backpack was searched, but no gun was found. The victim, identified as teacher Abby Zwerner, 25, was shot in the chest two and a half hours later in her first-grade classroom.

The January 6 shooting happened after Zwerner and the six-year-old got into an “altercation.” The victim was trying to confiscate the boy’s gun when he allegedly shot her.

In response to the school shooting, the Newport News School Board said administrative changes will be implemented at Richneck, although no details were offered about those changes. Parker did reveal that the district was considering requiring students to carry clear backpacks that would be purchased by the district, reports WAVE.

Security upgrades are also being implemented, including the installation of permanent metal detectors. Additionally, the front entrance will be redesigned to be a secure vestibule equipped with a buzzer so staff can screen visitors. A full-time security officer, rather than a part-time officer, will also patrol campus.

Parker also said he and the district have contacted Uvalde, Texas school district officials for advice on the matter. Robb Elementary School in Uvalde is where 19 students and two adults were killed in May in a mass shooting.

The school will be closed through this week. At that time, Parker said he hopes to have a date when students can go back, reports WTKR. Mental health resources and therapists will be available for students and staff.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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3 responses to “UPDATE: Newport News Teacher Shot by 6-Year-Old Student Has Resigned”

  1. Conrad Stroebe says:

    Why not down size outer high schools to 600?
    David Kaiser
    Tom Vander Ark
    Kathleen Cotton
    Elsie Arntzen
    Conrad Stroebe

  2. Sgt. Jeffrey Weiss (Ret.) says:

    Of all the people and institutions these folks might be asking for advice they picked Uvalde. The one of the places in the country where they did it ALL Wrong.
    We are now hearing of several instances when clear warnings were available and ignored.
    The practice of “mainstreaming” clearly disturbed children is ludicrous and serves not the children needing help nor the community as a whole.

  3. randy says:

    I would honestly not be surprised if the school system tried to place this child in another program outside of the general population and likely met resistance from the parents. I have seen to many parents refuse specialized education and or facilities simply because its causes them emotional distress that their child is different or added stress to a difficult work schedule. This child was already on a very different and specialized educational plan, which the parents admittedly failed to strictly follow allowing for this to happen. See .. https://abcnews.go.com/US/family-6-year-shot-teacher-speaks-1st-time/story?id=96536112
    Unfortunately most modern U.S. educational directives consider most punitive measures for poor behavior as corporal punishment and seek rehabilitative corrective measures at all costs which fall just short of rewarding poor behavior. An example is removing all the students from a classroom (interrupting their education) in order to deal with one disruptive student by removing his/her audience. Even further measures are if the student is medically diagnosed with just about anything they are further allowed to go unchecked and become violent toward others. See.. https://www.wkrn.com/news/tennessee-politics/hamilton-county-republican-files-bill-allowing-school-security-officers-to-use-mechanical-restraints-on-students-receiving-special-education/

    The educational system has become a wet noodle on discipline at the hands of its own legal advise and is all too often willing to punish or terminate (not retrain) teachers in an already overtasked and under employed system for fear of parental legal retaliation. This unfortunately is also a reflection of a juvenile judicial system that is unwilling to hold the less (children under 10 years of age) cognitive accountable for their severe and heinous actions, See Parkland Florida and that shooters history.
    This is absolutely primarily a parental failure very similar to Sandy hook. Children of this nature should not have access , be around any weapons in any shape of form. The parent stated that they did not have access to the pistol but they magically had the mothers pistol in their possession when they attempted to kill.

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