NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Similarities between the case of a Richneck Elementary School student shooting a teacher and a North Carolina teacher badly hurt by a student prompt a message of healing and support from Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman.
“If any good is to come from this, it must be that students and staff are better protected and this does not happen again in the future of Newport News or anywhere in this great Commonwealth,” Fedderman said.
Kimberly Burns-Fisher reportedly sustained severe injuries after being assaulted by a student at Pender County Public Schools in 2018, according to the Port City Daily newspaper. She is suing the division. A judge ruled in favor of the school district in claiming Burns-Fisher assumed risks on the job. Burns-Fisher is appealing that decision and it is making its way through the North Carolina court system.
Fedderman said that teachers should never expect to face violence in the classroom.
“I want to be perfectly clear – educators should not be forced to live with the threat of physical violence in the classroom,” Fedderman said. “It is the job of the administration to provide a safe and conducive learning environment for our students and our educators.”
In her letter of intent to sue the school board, Zwerner’s attorney Diane Toscano wrote that she hopes the district “will not send a message that being shot while teaching in a lesson in class by a student is merely a hazard of the job.”
Fedderman said that the division must fully support Zwerner following her recovery.
“We have to make sure that the teacher that was impacted by this, that she is made whole,” Fedderman said. “Her life moving forward will never be the same, but what we can do is make sure she is made whole.”
He said the division could face an extreme teacher shortage next school year, citing a culture of fear in schools.
“They’re fearful of doing their jobs and not being supported,” Fedderman said. “They’re fearful of making the wrong choice in a moment’s notice and not being supported.”
The Newport News Police Department is still investigating the shooting before turning over findings to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office for consideration of criminal charges.