In her lawsuit, the teacher alleges that education officials neglected to address actively-circulating rumors that the young student had a firearm in his backpack.
A Virginia school teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student has filed a $40 million negligence lawsuit against district officials.
According to the B.B.C., plaintiff Abigail “Abby” Zwerner, 25, was shot on January 6 of this year. She sustained injuries to her hand and upper chest and spent nearly two weeks in a local hospital.
Zwerner, adds the B.B.C., underwent surgery four times.
The lawsuit recounts how the six-year-old student brought the handgun to Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, a city of about 180,000 people.
After being shot by the child, Zwerner helped move her other students to safety before calling emergency services.
“She is a trooper, she is a hero,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said shortly after the incident.
Investigators later determined that the child had taken his mother’s firearm, which was purchased legally.
After the incident, the local Board of Education voted to install metal detectors at Richneck, as well as other schools in the same district.
The superintendent of the district was later fired; the assistant principal at Richneck resigned.
However, the 6-year-old shooter not criminally charged, nor were his parents or anyone else.
According to the lawsuit, education officials purportedly ignored warning signs that the student could be a danger to himself or others: in one incident, the boy “strangled and choked” a kindergarten teacher the year before.
The same student also had a reputation or chasing other students, whipping his classmates with a belt, and swearing at instructors.
“All Defendants knew that John Doe attacked students and teachers alike, and his motivation to injure was directed toward anyone in his path, both in and out of school,” the lawsuit alleges.
The Associated Press notes that, while the student was removed from Richneck in kindergarten, he was allowed to return to the school for first grade the following year.
The boy was placed on a modified schedule “because he was chasing students around the playground with a belt in an effort to whip them.”
“Teachers’ concerns with John Doe’s behavior [were] regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed,” the lawsuit claims.
The complaint suggests that, after the boy was taken to the school’s administrative officer, he would typically “return to class shortly thereafter with some type of reward, such as a piece of candy.”
The student’s parents reportedly refused to let the boy be placed in special education classes with other students struggling with behavior problems.
On the day of the shooting, the lawsuit claims, two students told Amy Kovac, a reading specialist at Richneck, that the six-year-old had a firearm in his backpack.
While the boy denied the allegations, he refused to show the bag’s contents to Kovac.
For the next several hours, education officials and teachers discussed the possibility that the boy could have a firearm, but broadly refused to take any substantive action.
Later in the day, though, the child retrieved the firearm—which he had concealed in his pocket—aimed it at Zwerner, and fired.
The lawsuit is seeking an estimated $40 million in damages.