Lawyer: Warnings Boy Had Gun Ignored Before He Shot Teacher

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va.—Concerned unit warned administrators astatine a Virginia simple school 3 times that a 6-year-old lad had a weapon and was threatening different students successful the hours earlier helium changeable and wounded a teacher, but the medication “was paralyzed by apathy” and didn’t telephone police, region the lad from class, oregon fastener down the school, the wounded teacher’s lawyer said Wednesday.

Later successful the day, the schoolhouse committee voted to occurrence schoolhouse territory superintendent George Parker III arsenic portion of a separation statement that volition wage Parker a small implicit $502,000 successful severance—two years of his existent basal wage of $251,000. Parker has been sharply criticized by parents and teachers since the Jan. 6 shooting.

Diane Toscano, an lawyer for Abigail Zwerner, said during a quality league that she has notified the schoolhouse committee successful Newport News that the 25-year-old teacher astatine Richneck Elementary School plans to writer the schoolhouse territory implicit the shooting, which near Zwerner with superior injuries.

“On that day, implicit the people of a fewer hours, 3 antithetic times—three times—school medication was warned by acrophobic teachers and employees that the lad had a weapon connected him astatine the schoolhouse and was threatening people. But the medication could not beryllium bothered,” Toscano said.

She said that Zwerner archetypal went to an head astatine astir 11:15 a.m. connected the time of the shooting and said the lad had threatened to bushed up different child, but nary enactment was taken.

About an hr later, different teacher went to an head and said she had taken it upon herself to hunt the boy’s bookbag, but warned that she thought the lad had enactment the weapon successful his pouch earlier going extracurricular for recess, Toscano said.

“The head downplayed the study from the teacher and the anticipation of a gun, saying—and I quote—‘Well, helium has small pockets,’ ” Toscano said.

Shortly aft 1 p.m., different teacher told an head that a antithetic pupil who was “crying and fearful” said the lad showed him the weapon during recess and threatened to sprout him if helium told anyone. Again, nary enactment was taken, she said.

When different worker who had heard the lad mightiness person a weapon asked an head to hunt the boy, helium was turned down, Toscano said.

“He was told to hold the concern retired due to the fact that the schoolhouse time was astir over,” she said.

About an hr later, “Abby Zwerner was changeable successful beforehand of those horrified kids, and the schoolhouse and assemblage are surviving the nightmare, each due to the fact that the schoolhouse medication failed to act,” Toscano said.

“Were they not truthful paralyzed by apathy, they could person prevented this tragedy,” she said.

School territory spokesperson Michelle Price declined to comment.

“Since the schoolhouse division’s probe is ongoing, I cannot remark connected the statements presented by Ms. Zwerner’s lawyer astatine this time,” Price wrote successful an email.

The shooting raised questions implicit information astatine the schoolhouse and stunned Newport News, a metropolis of astir 185,000 radical astir 70 miles southeast of Richmond.

Parker’s departure had been expected since a schoolhouse committee docket was posted Tuesday showing that the sheet was acceptable to ballot connected his separation package. The separation and severance statement says the committee has decided to “terminate the Contract and Superintendent’s employment.”

The committee voted 5–1 successful favour of the statement aft respective members praised Parker’s past show arsenic superintendent.

George Parker Newport News Superintendent of Schools George Parker makes remarks connected the information parameters presently successful spot astatine the city’s schools during a property league astatine the Newport News School Administration Building successful Newport News, Va., connected Jan. 9, 2023. (John C. Clark/AP Photo)

Board subordinate Gary Hunter delivered a agelong defence of Parker arsenic immoderate members of the assemblage sighed and told him to “move on.” Hunter said helium thought Parker was being unfairly blamed for the shooting and said the existent occupation is the deficiency of “commonsense weapon laws.”

“Getting escaped of idiosyncratic is not going to hole this peculiar problem,” Hunter said.

As portion of the agreement, committee Chair Lisa Surles-Law work a connection successful which the committee said the determination to terminate Parker was made “without cause” and that Parker “is a susceptible part leader” who has served the schoolhouse territory for astir 5 years “through immoderate highly challenging circumstances.”

Parker has said that astatine slightest 1 head was told connected the time of the shooting that the lad mightiness person a weapon, but nary limb was recovered erstwhile his backpack was searched. Police person said that schoolhouse officials did not archer them astir that extremity earlier the shooting, which happened hours later.

Cindy Connell, a mediate schoolhouse teacher successful Newport News, called the events described by Toscano “beyond horrifying.”

“This is conscionable different illustration of administrators not listening to the concerns of teachers, and the lone crushed we’re talking astir this 1 is due to the fact that Abby Zwerner got shot,” Connell said.

“I deliberation immoderate head that was told repeatedly that this kid has a weapon, we deliberation this kid has a weapon—anyone who knew astir this concern and did thing should suffer their job.”

Police Chief Steve Drew has repeatedly characterized the shooting arsenic “intentional,” saying the lad aimed astatine Zwerner and fired 1 round, striking her successful the manus and chest. Zwerner was hospitalized for astir 2 weeks but is present recovering astatine home, Toscano said.

“The roadworthy to afloat betterment volition beryllium agelong … and the intelligence scars volition beryllium lasting,” Toscano said.

The boy’s parent legally purchased the weapon utilized successful the shooting, constabulary said. The boy’s household said successful a connection past week that the weapon was “secured.” The family’s attorney, James Ellenson, told The Associated Press that his knowing was that the weapon was successful the woman’s closet connected a support good implicit 6 feet precocious and had a trigger fastener that required a key.

The household besides said successful its connection that the lad has an “acute disability” and was nether a attraction program “that included his parent oregon begetter attending schoolhouse with him and accompanying him to people each day.” The week of the shooting was the archetypal erstwhile a genitor was not successful people with him, the household said.

James Ellenson, an lawyer for the boy’s family, released a connection Wednesday saying they “continue to commune for Ms. Zwerner and privation her a implicit and afloat recovery.”

“Our hearts spell retired to each involved,” Ellenson said.

The school, which has been closed since the shooting, is scheduled to reopen adjacent week. Karen Lynch, a longtime main successful the Newport News schoolhouse district, has been named arsenic an “administrator connected peculiar assignment” astatine Richneck, Lynch said successful a enactment to parents connected Monday.

Richneck Elementary School A schoolhouse motion wishing students a “Happy New Year” extracurricular Richneck Elementary School successful Newport News, Va., connected Jan. 7, 2023. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)

Ahead of the reopening, administrators and teachers held an Open House astatine the schoolhouse Wednesday for students and their families to sojourn unit and enactment successful activities. Signs on the sidewalks successful beforehand of the schoolhouse offered reassuring messages to the students: “You’ve got this,” “We are Praying for You,” and “You are Loved.”

By Denise Lavoie