District tries to dismiss lawsuit from teacher shot by 6-year-old, says it’s covered under workers’ comp

Lawyers representing the school board in Newport News, Virginia, have submitted a motion to dismiss the $40 million lawsuit, which was brought by first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner, who was shot in her classroom by a 6-year-old student.

The attorneys for the claim board stated that she was approved to receive benefits under the state’s worker’s compensation law, despite her refusal to accept the suit filed against them, citing her injuries.

In Zwerner’s alleged lawsuit, school administrators were informed that a boy brought a gun to the school prior to the shooting, which had a history of random violence and caused harm to her.

In response to the lawsuit filed by attorneys for School News Newport, Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, the division made allegations and claims on Wednesday.

They contend that the action does not fall within the purview of the Newport News Circuit Court.

Dr. George Parker, III, the ex-Superintendent of Newport News School, and Briana Foster Newton, the ex-Principal of Richneck Elementary, are being advocated for by the legal representatives of the board. The motion filed by the school board did not encompass Ebony Parker, the former assistant principal at Richneck, who was specifically mentioned in Zwerner’s lawsuit.

Lawyers representing the school board in the motion assert in great detail a comprehensive array of work environment circumstances that directly and closely led to the assault on Zwerner in her lawsuit addressing the shooting related to Zwerner’s grievances.

The motion asserts that Zwerner, who works as a first-grade teacher at Newport News School, suffered injuries that prevent her from pursuing legal action against the School Defendants under the Workers Compensation Act. Additionally, the motion contends that the court does not have the authority to hear Zwerner’s claims related to the injuries she suffered during the shooting.

The lawyers for the board argue that Zwerner’s lawsuit is an attempt to bypass the Act by claiming that the 6-year-old’s attack was directed specifically towards her. They also assert that the child’s actions on the day of the shooting were “personal” and attribute the problem to the handgun. Additionally, they contend that this violates the state’s laws, which state that children under the age of seven cannot be held responsible for negligence.

The motion states, “unfortunately, this is not the truth,” encompassing their educators, young kids would not present any threat to others, in a perfect world. Zwener “even asserts that she reasonably expected that ‘she would be collaborating with young [elementary school] children who presented no hazard to her.'”

“According to Zwerner, the use of handguns is more attention-grabbing and shocking, despite the fact that serious harm can be caused by scissors, knives, pencils, rocks, chairs, and hands.”

Zwerner’s assertion that the 6-year-old had shown improvement in class justified the need for an extended school day and other adjustments. They claim that Zwerner and other school administrators permitted the 6-year-old, who shot her, to come back to school without parental supervision. This claim is made in the motion.

ABC News reported on Thursday that Jeffrey Breit and Diane Toscano, attorneys for Zwerner, stated that a first-grade teacher should not expect a student to understand the risks of teaching until they have been shot by a six-year-old.

Zwerner’s attorneys stated, “The stance of the school board goes against the way that all residents of Newport News believe teachers should be treated, and the legal framework does not uphold the board’s stance. This is included in the job description, so it is concerning for the employer to discover that teachers throughout the district will be affected.”