School shooting chief booted out of office after authorities ‘ignored gun warnings’

Abby Zwerner was shot by a pupil  (Facebook)
Abby Zwerner was shot by a pupil (Facebook)

A school board in Virginia voted to oust the superintendent after it was claimed authorities at a local school were warned three times that a first grader had a gun before he shot and wounded his teacher.

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, the teacher’s lawyer Diane Toscano said.

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.

Lawyer Diane Toscano who represents Abigail Zwerner (AP)
Lawyer Diane Toscano who represents Abigail Zwerner (AP)

At a special meeting on Wednesday night, the school board voted 5-to-1 to relieve Superintendent George Parker of his duties with severance. Parker came under pressure after saying that at least one administrator was aware the boy may have had a gun on the day of the shooting.

After the vote, Chairwoman Lisa Surles-Law said the decision to terminate was made without cause as defined in Parker's contract.

"Dr. Parker is a capable division leader who has served Newport News for nearly five years through some extremely challenging circumstances," she said.

"This decision is based on the future trajectory and needs of our school division."

Police vehicles parked outside Richneck Elementary School (via REUTERS)
Police vehicles parked outside Richneck Elementary School (via REUTERS)

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 Richneck Elementary School," Toscano said.