Abby Zwerner, the Virginia teacher who was shot by a 6-year-old student in January, told NBC News during an exclusive interview that she's filed a $40 million lawsuit alleging that school administrators ignored multiple warnings from staff and students regarding the child prior to the incident.
The incident took place at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on January 6. Zwerner, 25, was shot by a 6-year-old with a 9mm handgun while she sat at a reading table, officials confirmed.
The complaint, which was filed in the Newport News Circuit Court, accuses former Richneck assistant principal Ebony Parker, who resigned in the wake of the shooting, of breaching "her assumed duty" to protect Zwerner "despite multiple reports that a firearm was on school property and likely in possession of a violent individual." The lawsuit also names the Newport News School Board, former schools superintendent George Parker III -- who was removed by the board "without cause" following the incident -- and former Richneck principal Briana Foster Newton -- who transferred to a different role within the district -- as defendants.
Zwerner claims she suffered "physical pain and mental anguish" in relation to the incident. Local authorities praised the 25-year-old for managing to escort her class of about 20 to safety despite being shot and suffering serious wounds to her hand and chest during the incident.
In January, George Parker III told parents that at least one school official was notified of the Richneck Elementary first grader possibly having a 9mm handgun in his possession ahead of the shooting.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon in the timeline that we’re reviewing and was aware that that student had, there was a potential that there was a weapon on campus,” the then-superintendent told parents in a clip of the meeting broadcast by WAVY-TV, which gained access from a parent.
The lawsuit claims the 6-year-old, who was identified as John Doe, had shown examples of troubling behavior in the past, having strangled and choked a teacher, as well as pulling up the dress and "inappropriately" touch a female student who fell on the playground, during the previous school year. The boy initially transferred out of Richneck and was placed in a different school within the Newport News district before being allowed to transfer back ahead of the 2022-23 school year and placed on a modified schedule after "chasing students around the playground with a belt in an effort to whip them with it, as well as cursing at staff and teachers," the complaint states.