Parents at school where boy, 6, shot teacher prepare to sue

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The families of two students at a Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old shot and wounded his teacher have filed notices of potential legal action against the school system over trauma they say the shooting inflicted on their children.

The parents of a first-grader said their daughter was in the classroom when the shooting occurred and “suffered emotional harm as a result.” The parents also alleged that school officials failed to protect their daughter throughout the school year from bullying, harassment and assault.

A letter from the other child’s family cites “injuries sustained during a school shooting on January 6, 2023.” Their attorney did not elaborate further, although authorities have said that no children were physically harmed during the incident.

Both notices were dated Jan. 30. Newport News Public Schools provided the letters to The Associated Press after it requested them. They were first reported by the Daily Press.

The notices were the latest fallout from a shooting that has sent shockwaves through the shipbuilding city near the Chesapeake Bay and drawn mounting criticism of school administrators.

Police have said the first-grade student brought his mother’s 9 mm handgun to Richneck Elementary and intentionally shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, as she was teaching her first-grade class. Zwerner, 25, was hospitalized for nearly two weeks but is now recovering at home.

One of the legal notices was filed by “Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Nieves Jr.,” and asks the school system to preserve potential evidence, including emails regarding any student who allegedly bullied, harassed or assaulted their daughter.

The parents of the other student were not named in their attorney’s letter, although the notice makes a similar request for the school system to preserve evidence.

Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, recently filed her own legal notice, which lays out a series of damning allegations.

The document says that several hours before the shooting, at least three teachers and staff members warned school administrators that they believed the boy had brought a gun to school. The boy’s backpack was searched, but no gun was found, and administrators did not remove the boy from class, lock down the school or call police.

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner’s cellphone and broke it, according to her claim notice. He was given a one-day suspension, but when he returned to Zwerner’s class the following day, he pulled a 9 mm handgun out of his pocket and shot her while she sat at a reading table, the notice states.

The letter from Zwerner’s attorney also states that the child constantly cursed at staff and teachers, chased students around and tried to whip them with his belt and once choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe.”

In the days after the shooting, parents and teachers also lambasted school administrators for what they called a misguided emphasis on attendance over the safety of children and staff.

The Newport News School Board fired superintendent George Parker III, while Richneck assistant principal Ebony Parker resigned. Metal detectors were also put in place at Richneck, which reopened to students on Jan. 30 after being closed for a full three weeks.

Police said the boy was taken to a medical facility where he is receiving unspecified services. A judge will determine what’s next for the child.

No charges have been brought against the boy’s mother, whose gun was used in the shooting. But police have said they’re conducting an investigation.


For more coverage of the shooting:

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