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The former principal at the Virginia school where a boy shot his first-grade teacher was not told the boy had a gun, his lawyer says


Feb 2, 2023

The former principal of the Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old student shot his first-grade teacher last month was not warned the boy might have had a weapon on campus that day, his attorney said Thursday. .

Briana Foster Newton, the former principal of Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, was not briefed by any other administrators about the warnings that the boy might have brought a gun to campus, her attorney Pamela J. Branch said during a brief news conference. Thursday.

«It continues to be reported that unidentified school administrators knew the 6-year-old student had a weapon at school on January 6th and simply failed to act. Ms. Newton is presumed to be one of those administrators. However, that is far from the truth,» Branch said. «The fact is that those who knew the student might have had a weapon on the premises that day did not report this to Ms. Newton at all.»

Branch continued: «I repeat: unfortunately, Ms. Newton was not one of the administrators who was informed by those at the school that day that they had this critical information.»

Branch only responded to a few questions from reporters Thursday citing an ongoing investigation and the possibility of future litigation. She added that the students had recently returned to school and are trying to get back on track.

«They didn’t act and they shot Abby»

The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, 25, was wounded in the hand and chest after the student shot her in front of a classroom of about 20 students, authorities said.

Zwerner survived and is recovering.

On January 25, Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, made a series of allegations about how the Richneck administration ignored multiple warnings before the shooting that could have prevented it.

Three teachers went to school administration the day of the shooting and said the 6-year-old was believed to have a weapon on campus, Toscano said. They also complained about his behavior.

Zwerner first went to a school administrator between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and said the student had threatened to hit a classmate, Toscano said. A second teacher went to see a school administrator at 12:30 pm and told him that she had taken it upon herself to search the boy’s backpack.

«The administrator downplayed the teacher’s report and the possibility of a weapon,» Toscano said.

A third teacher told an administrator shortly before 1 p.m., about an hour before the shooting, that the boy had shown the gun to a classmate at recess and «threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.» Toscano said.

A fourth employee asked an administrator for permission to search the child and was denied, Toscano said.

The administrator told the clerk to “wait because the school day was almost over,” Toscano said.

Toscano said the administration “could not be bothered” and that the tragedy would have been “entirely preventable” if the administration “had taken action when they were aware of the imminent danger,” adding: “But instead, they failed to act and shot him.” to Abby.

Toscano could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Branch also said Thursday that Newton has received threatening voicemails and been the subject of misinformation on social media.

She said Branch, an 11-year-old educator who was in her first year as principal, has been «demonized.»

Newton was voted the district’s elementary teacher of the year by her peers in 2018, when she taught third-grade students, Branch said.

He added that Newton is praying for Zwerner’s «continued healing process» and that Newton only wishes the best for the Richneck community.

NBC News also reported that Zwerner texted a loved one before the shooting, saying the boy was armed and school officials were not acting.

Aftermath of shooting rocked school and district leadership

The children returned to school on Monday. for the first time since the shooting without Newton as director. Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned from the school, according to district spokeswoman Michelle Price.

With the departure of the principal and assistant principal, the district’s supervisor of extended learning, Karen Lynch, an experienced elementary school principal, was selected as an administrator on special assignment at Richneck, coordinating the return of students to learning, Price said.

Newton remains employed by the school district, Price said. Branch said Newton had not been reassigned to a position in the district as of Thursday.

Made changes to Richneck to increase security. Changes included the placement of two permanent school division security officers at the school, the installation of two metal detector systems, the installation of gates in classroom areas that did not have one, and the provision of clear backpacks to all students, according to the district.

Former school system superintendent George Parker III said at a virtual town hall last month that the boy had been late to school and had his backpack searched. when he came to the office to sign in, the parents said they saw the meeting.

«At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,» Parker said in video reviewed by NBC News.

Parker was fired from his job on January 25 by a 5-1 vote at a school board meeting. His separation became official Wednesday and he is replaced by an interim superintendent.

No charges have been announced in the case, although Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said the boy’s mother legally purchased the Taurus 9mm firearm used in the shooting. Whether the gun was secured at the home is being investigated, Drew said.

The family of the boy who shot Zwerner said in a statement. last month that the gun was «secured» when he took it from his home, but he did not elaborate.

Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children. The firearm our son accessed was seized,» the statement, issued by James Ellenson, the family’s lawyer, reads.

The statement also says that the child «suffers from an acute disability and was under a plan of care at school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.»