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Abby Zwerner: Teacher shot by six-year-old student ‘fired by school district’


A Virginia school teacher shot by a six-year-old student is no longer employed by her school and a dispute has emerged over whether she was fired or she resigned.

Abby Zwerner, who worked as a first-grade teacher at Newport News Public Schools (NNPS), was shot by her student in January after which she sustained severe wounds, spent two weeks in the hospital, and underwent multiple surgeries.

The 25-year-old teacher, who filed a $40m lawsuit against the school over negligence, is now not employed by NNPS anymore, the administration announced on Tuesday, claiming she resigned from her position.

Ms Zwerner’s lawyers, however, said she was fired by the school and has not been paid since February. She also alleged the school was “trying to put pressure on her” after the lawsuit.

“They are trying to squeeze her,” Ms Zwerner’s attorney Jeffrey Breit told WAVY News 10.

“The only thing I can think, they were trying to put pressure on her because we filed suit,” he said. “It’s outrageous, as outrageous as I’ve ever seen.”

Mr Breit cited an email school officials sent Ms Zwerner in May, stating they had “processed a separation of employment for you effective the close of business 06/12/2023”.

“I don’t think you can read this any other way than you’ve been fired,” he told WAVY.

The school refuted Mr Breit’s claim in a statement on Tuesday.

“Every employee who is separating from the school division receives a similar communication,” it said.

The school system also provided emails between its administration and Ms Zwerner, in which the teacher reportedly wrote: “I wish to resign. Thank you.”

The outlet first reported, citing email exchanges between Ms Zwerner and NNPS’s human resource department, that the school district processed a separation of employment for her.

Ms Zwerner’s separation from the school comes five months after the shooting incident that shocked the shipbuilding city of about 180,000 people near the Atlantic coast.

Ms Zwerner was shot in the hand and chest as she sat at a reading table in her first-grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School on 6 January.

The six-year-old boy who shot her had used his mother’s gun. His mother, Deja Taylor, pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court to using marijuana while owning a firearm, which is illegal under US law.

Ms Taylor is facing charges on the state level of felony child neglect and reckless storage of a firearm. A trial for those counts is set for August.

A candle light vigil held for Abby Zwerner in January

(AP)

After the incident, Ms Zwerner filed a $40m lawsuit against the Newport News School Board, former superintendent Dr Gregory Parker, former Richneck principal Briana Foster-Newton and former Richneck assistant principal Dr Ebony Parker.

Ms Zwerner’s attorneys said school officials knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the year before in which he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.

Her lawsuit is still pending, but the school has rejected claims of negligence saying she could reasonably expect to work with young children who posed no danger, pointing to numerous incidents of violence against teachers across the US and in Virginia’s Newport News.

“While in an ideal world, young children would not pose any danger to others, including their teachers, this is sadly not reality,” the board said.

In asking a judge to dismiss the case, the school board has argued that Ms Zwerner’s injuries fall under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

The school board said Ms Zwerner refused to accept workers’ compensation.


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