Virginia school warned before 6-year-old shot teacher, lawyer says

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(Reuters) – Authorities at a Virginia school were warned three times that a first grader had a gun before he shot and wounded his teacher, her lawyer said on Wednesday, as the board prepared to vote on whether to oust the superintendent over the incident.

Abigail Zwerner, 25, was “shot purposely” in front of other students at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News earlier this month after administrators ignored warnings the six-year-old student posed a threat, lawyer Diane Toscano said at a press conference.

The warnings were made over three hours on the day of the shooting, according to Toscano, who said she planned to file a lawsuit against the Newport News School District on behalf of Zwerner.

“This tragedy was entirely preventable if the school administrator responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger,” said Toscano. She did not say what damages she would seek on behalf of the teacher, who was wounded in the chest.

The school district declined to comment.

Superintendent George Parker, under pressure after saying at least one administrator was aware the boy may have a gun on the day of the shooting, will face a school board vote over his future at a special meeting set for Wednesday.

Zwerner was the first to tell a school administrator on the morning of Jan. 6 that the student threatened to beat up another child, but the boy was not removed from class, according to Toscano. The administrator was not named.

In the afternoon, a second teacher who suspected the boy had a weapon did not find a gun when she searched his book bag. She then told the same administrator that she believed the boy had put the gun in his pocket before going to recess, the lawyer said.

Toscano said another student told a third teacher that the boy showed him a gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone. The teacher reported the account to school administrators, she said.

A fourth employee who learned of the threat asked for permission to search the boy, but was denied by the same school safety administrator, the lawyer said.

“He was told to wait the situation out because the school day was almost over. Tragically, almost an hour later, violence struck Ridge Elementary School,” Toscano said.

Police plan to present findings from an investigation to the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Newport News, who would make any decision regarding possible charges against the boy’s mother.

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