Concerned teachers and employees warned administrators at a Virginia elementary school three times that a six-year-old boy had a gun and was threatening other students in the hours before he shot and wounded a teacher, “but the administration could not be bothered”, a lawyer for the teacher said.
Diane Toscano, an attorney for Abigail Zwerner, told reporters on Wednesday she had notified the Newport News school board that the 25-year-old Richneck elementary school teacher plans to sue the school district over the 6 January shooting, which left Zwerner with serious injuries.
Toscano said: “On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times – three times – school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered.”
At about 12.30pm, Toscano said, a teacher told administrators she had taken it upon herself to search the boy’s book bag but warned that she thought he had the gun in his pocket. Toscano said that after 1pm, another boy told his teacher the other student had shown him the gun and threatened to shoot him, and that the teacher reported that to administrators.
Another employee asked for permission to search the boy but “was told to wait the situation out because the school day was almost over”, Toscano said.
Zwerner told school administrators at around 11.15am that the boy had threatened to beat up another child.
The shooting stunned Newport News, a city of about 185,000 70 miles south-east of Richmond.
The police chief, Steve Drew, has characterized the shooting as “intentional”, saying the boy aimed at Zwerner and fired one round, striking her in the hand and chest.
Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and is now recovering at home.
The schools superintendent, George Parker III, has said at least one administrator was told on the day of the shooting the boy might have had a weapon, but no weapon was found when his backpack was searched.
Police have said school officials did not tell them about that tip before the shooting, which happened hours later.
The boy’s mother legally purchased the gun, police said. The boy’s family said in a statement last week the gun was “secured”. The family’s attorney, James Ellenson, said his understanding was that the gun was in the woman’s closet on a shelf well over 6ft high and had a trigger lock that required a key.
The family said the boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan “that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day”. The week of the shooting was the first when a parent was not with him, the family said.
The Newport News school board was scheduled to hold a special meeting on Wednesday evening to vote on a separation agreement and severance package for Parker, according to a posted agenda. The board was also scheduled to vote on an interim superintendent.
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