Speed Reads

Seeking Damages

Teacher shot by 6-year-old student files $40M lawsuit

The Newport News, Virginia, teacher who was shot by her six-year-old student earlier this year sued her school district for $40 million on Monday, alleging that school officials ignored numerous warnings that the student had a gun. 

Abigail Zwerner, 25, was shot in the hand and chest by the student at Richneck Elementary School with a 9mm handgun on Jan. 6, as she sat reading to her class. Zwerner spent almost two weeks in the hospital and underwent four surgeries, and continues her long road to recovery

The incident shocked the community of Newport News and made nationwide headlines, with many wondering how a first-grade child could obtain a gun and bring it to school. In the lawsuit, which was first reported by NBC News, Zwerner's attorneys argued that the school failed in its "assumed duty" to protect the teacher, despite "multiple reports that a firearm was on school property and likely in possession of a violent individual."

Defendants in the lawsuit include the Newport News School Board, former Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck principal Briana Foster Newton, and former Richneck assistant principal Ebony Parker, The Associated Press reported. All three named defendants have either been fired or re-assigned to other schools in the aftermath of the shooting. 

The lawsuit said Zwerner suffers "physical pain and mental anguish," as a result of the incident.

Zwerner's attorneys, Diane Toscano and Jeffrey Breit, appeared on the TODAY Show following news of the lawsuit, and lambasted the alleged misdeeds by the school. "We know for a fact that there were at least three opportunities for [the school] to stop this from happening," Breit said. "Right now, the allegations are...you have a ticking time bomb in the school, and the school failed to do anything about it."

The Newport News School Board has not issued any response to the lawsuit.