NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The families of two Richneck Elementary School students have put Newport News Public Schools on notice of their intent to file lawsuits against it.
The families sent intent-to-sue letters to Newport News Public Schools on Jan. 30 – six days after attorney Diane Toscano sent her own notice of intent to the school division on behalf of first grade teacher Abby Zwerner. The 25-year-old was seriously injured after her 6-year-old student shot her in her classroom on Jan. 6, according to police.
Zwerner’s intent-to-sue letter focused largely on claims that teachers and staff reported suspicion that the 6-year-old boy had a gun at least three times to Richneck’s former vice principal, Dr. Ebony Parker, and the administrator failed to act. Parker resigned from the district on Jan. 25.
The intent-to-sue letters sent on behalf of the two Richneck students were filed separately and are unrelated to each other.
10 On Your Side’s investigative team spoke with the parent of one of the children. That parent is represented by attorney Emily Mapp Brannon and asked to remain unnamed. They told us they sent the school division an intent-to-sue letter because their son was in the lunchroom with the accused 6-year-old on the day of the shooting and while he may have had the gun in the pocket of his hoodie.
The intent-to-sue letter filed on behalf of that student doesn’t provide any details of their experience at Richneck on Jan. 6. It said Brannon has been retained to represent the boy for “injuries sustained during a school shooting.”
The family of a first grader who was in Zwerner’s classroom at the time of the shooting also filed an intent-to-sue on behalf of their daughter. The letter claims the girl was bullied, harassed and assaulted at Richneck during the current school year.
The girl’s parents reported their concerns to NNPS multiple times, but claim the school division failed to protect their daughter, according to the letter.
10 On Your Side spoke to the parents listed on the claim. They were not ready to comment.
School safety and the division’s alleged failure to act has been a recurring theme the past month. During the Newport News Public Schools board meeting on Jan. 17, a Richneck parent spoke out in an emotional address to the board.
Parent Desire Yvette talked about her daughter’s struggle with bullies and the lack of support from administration.
“My daughter was a student at Richneck. She was in that classroom. I got a conference with the teacher, the guidance counselor and the assistant principal. The principal was in the building and she never showed her face. That principal never showed up. Never. The only people that showed up were Ms. Zwerner who was an advocate for my daughter when this whole thing started when we first started school,” Yvette stated.
Yvette also revealed during that school board meeting that her daughter witnessed Abby Zwerner get shot.
“She’s six. She’s terrified because a person that was advocating for her got hurt,” Yvette said.
This story is developing. Check back with 10 On Your Side for updates.