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Tipsheet

School Superintendent in VA School District Where 6-Year-Old Shot Teacher Fired

Steve Helber

We have a new update from Newport News, Virginia, the site of a disturbing school shooting involving a 6-year-old who intentionally shot his teacher. The student had demonstrated violent anti-social behavior for quite some time, though never receiving the help he required; the student had voiced his desire to set a teacher on fire. This kid had become such a disturbance that his parents had to escort him to class, though they were absent on the day of the shooting, January 6. 

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There were reports that the school’s resources were stretched thin, with special educators reportedly overwhelmed with their caseload. On the day of the shooting, the teacher, Abby Zwerner, was able to escort the rest of her class to safety and then told a woman waiting to pick up her grandchildren at the school to call 911 before collapsing from blood loss. She’s expected to recover fully.

In the wake of this shooting, the school district superintendent was removed from his position. An assistant principal at the school where this shooting occurred also resigned. The students are set to return to classes on Monday (via NBC News):


The Newport News School Board on Wednesday voted to replace its embattled superintendent amid the continuing fallout from a 6-year-old boy shooting his first-grade teacher this month. 

The board voted 5-1 to remove George Parker III as the head of the district of about 26,500 students. His separation is effective Feb. 1, School Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law said. 

Parker was being removed "without cause," Surles-Law said, adding that he was a "capable" leader whose removal was based on the "future trajectory and needs of our school division." 

Michele Mitchell, executive director of student advancement for Newport News Public Schools, was named interim superintendent in a 5-1 vote. 

[…] 

Before the vote, the one school board member to support Parker, Gary Hunter, said he was "perplexed" by Parker's removal. 

In heated comments, Hunter said he had not been present during an earlier vote of no confidence from the board. He spoke of Parker's separation in stark terms. 

"What we're going to do tonight will be a tragedy if we make a decision without completing an investigation," he said, adding that Parker's prior evaluations were "very good" and that "getting someone new is not going to fix the problem." 

[…] 

On Wednesday morning, Zwerner's attorney, Diane Toscano, said at a news conference that three teachers went to the school administration about the boy's behavior the day of the shooting. The teachers reported the student was believed to have had a gun on campus, she said. 

Zwerner first went to a school administrator between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and said the student threatened to beat up a classmate, Toscano said. A second teacher went to a school administrator at 12:30 p.m. and told the administrator the teacher took it upon herself to search the 6-year-old boy's backpack.

"The administrator downplayed the report from the teacher and the possibility of a gun," Toscano said. 

A third teacher told an administrator shortly before 1 p.m. that the boy showed a student the gun at recess and "threatened to shoot him if he told anybody," Toscano said. 

A fourth employee asked an administrator for permission to search the boy and was denied, she said. 

The administrator told the employee to "wait the situation out because the school day was almost over," Toscano said. 

She said the "administration could not be bothered" and the tragedy was "entirely preventable" if it "had taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger. But instead, they failed to act and Abby was shot."

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It was another preventable shooting. Zwerner intends to file a lawsuit, and I hope she gets what she deserves. She did nothing wrong. The administrators of Richneck Elementary School, however, not so much.


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