NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The legal team representing the Newport News teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student said Monday morning on NBC News’ TODAY show that they filed a $40 million lawsuit against Newport News School officials.
It has been almost three months since Abby Zwerner was shot in her first grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School.
According to Zwerner’s lawyers, the lawsuit, filed in Newport News Circuit Court, alleges gross negligence and reckless breach of duty against the school board and three former administrators at the school.
The three administrators named in the lawsuit are former Principal Briana Foster-Newton, former Superintendent Dr. George Parker and former Assistant Principal Dr. Ebony Parker.
Zwerner’s lawyers allege that the Jan. 6 shooting was a personal attack that the school board and administrators failed to protect the teacher against the student despite multiple warnings.
The lawsuit alleges that the boy was removed from school during the 2021-2022 school year, when he was a kindergartener, after he strangled a teacher. They also said the child’s parents had expressed how they didn’t want him in special education.
Virginia trial lawyer Diane Toscano announced in January that she sent a notice to NNPS with intent to file a lawsuit on Zwerner’s behalf. Toscano said that school administration was warned three times by teachers and employees that the 6-year-old had a gun on him at school.
The lawsuit states that former Principal, Foster-Newton was well known by teachers “to ignore and downplay concerns expressed by teachers and to demean teachers working in school in which she was an administrator.”
It also stated that student who would be sent to Assistant Principal Parker as a result of violent behavior would return to class bragging about candy they would have received.
Lawyers for Foster-Newton have previously stated she was not made aware that the boy had a gun on the day of the shooting. Her attorney, Pamela J. Branch, also released the following statement Monday afternoon on behalf of Foster-Newton.
“Mrs. Briana Foster-Newton will vigorously defend any charges brought against her as a part of the lawsuit filed by Ms. Zwerner and respond accordingly. In addition, we are exploring the possibility of a countersuit as it has been brought to our attention that prior to the shooting, another student in Ms. Zwerner’s class warned her in class that the six-year-old shooter had a gun and Ms. Zwerner allegedly told the student to sit down and be quiet. If this is true, Ms. Zwerner may have been able to avoid the injury she suffered and this will certainly impact her claimed damages. This information was never reported to Mrs. Newton. Our investigation of this new information is ongoing.”
In response, Toscano wrote:
“It sounds like the principal is now blaming Abby for getting shot. That is absurd. This unheeded warning to the school administration were clear and the timing of when they knew the threat was on school property is spelled out in our complaint.”
The other administrators named in the lawsuit have yet to comment.
NBC News reported early last month that the Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney said that the boy who shot Zwerner will not be facing charges.
Zwerner’s attorneys said during the interview on TODAY that Zwerner is ready to hold people accountable for the shooting.
Zwerner spoke out for the first time last month in an exclusive interview on TODAY and said that she will never forget the look on the student’s face when he pointed the gun at her.
“That’s something that I will never forget. It’s changed me. It’s changed my life,” she told Savannah Guthrie.
Watch the full interview with Zwerner’s legal team on today.com.