6-year-old who shot teacher had history of violent behavior at school, assistant principal failed to act: Lawyer

(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) — The teacher shot in class by her 6-year-old student in Newport News, Virginia, claims the shooter had a history of violent behavior at school and accused the school’s assistant principal of failure to act despite being told repeatedly that the student had a gun at school, her lawyer alleged in a letter notifying the district of the intent to file a lawsuit.

The letter is one of three intent-to-file lawsuit letters sent to the school district and obtained by ABC News. Two other letters were submitted by parents of students who go to Richneck Elementary School.

In the letter, a lawyer for Abigail Zwerner, the teacher who was shot, alleged that four teachers, including Zwerner, and a guidance counselor all warned the school’s assistant principal, Ebony Parker, about the shooter’s behavior on the day of the shooting, but Parker failed to act when she was first notified, between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m., and when Zwerner was shot at 1:59 p.m.

Zwerner sustained a gunshot wound through her hand and into her chest on Jan. 6 when the student brought a gun into a classroom at Richneck Elementary School and intentionally shot and wounded her, according to police. A bullet remains lodged in her body, according to Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s lawyer.

The letter also alleged that the shooter had a history of concerning behavior at Richneck Elementary School, which Parker was aware of.

The student had allegedly been removed from the school a year prior after he “choked his teacher until she couldn’t breath,” according to the letter.

“This school year, the shooter was put on a modified schedule in the fall of 2022 after the school year had started because he constantly cursed at the staff and teachers and then one day took off his belt on the playground and chased kids trying to whip them,” according to the letter.

The shooter had been suspended the day before the shooting because he “slammed Ms. Zwerner’s phone breaking it” and had cursed at the guidance counselors,” according to the letter.

Zwerner also alleged that she told Parker that the student was in a “violent mood” and had already threatened to beat up a kindergartner on the day of the shooting.

Parker resigned from her position on Jan. 25, according to a school spokesperson.

In a second letter, the parents of one student alleged their daughter, Emari Nieves, who was in Zwerner’s class, was bullied by a student and witnessed the shooting.

Emari’s parents alleged they repeatedly notified Newport News Public Schools of the bullying and claim that the school division “did not take reasonable and appropriate actions to protect Emari and ensure Emari’s opportunity to attend a safe school environment. In addition, Emari was present in the classroom when the January 6, 2023 shooting occurred and suffered emotional harm as a result,” they wrote in the letter.

It is not clear whether the student who bullied Emari is the student who shot Zwerner.

The family is asking for all documents, information, video and audio recordings to be kept for the case.

The parents of the second student, Mark Garcia Jr., allege their son was feet away from the shooting.

According to lawyers, Garcia, who was allegedly in a classroom adjacent to the one where the shooting happened, also sent an intent-to-file lawsuit letter. Garcia’s lawyer said she is representing the student for “injuries sustained during” the shooting. They also are asking for the preservation of materials in this case. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, the district said it will install metal detectors at every school. Richneck Elementary School reopened to students on Jan. 30.

A spokesperson for the Newport News Public School district did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. Parker could not immediately be reached for a comment.

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