Paralyzed by Apathy: School ignores multiple gun warnings

Paralyzed by Apathy: School ignores multiple gun warnings

This past Wednesday, the attorney for Abby Zwerner held a press conference where she announced she plans to sue the Newport News school district. After hearing what else was revealed at the press conference, I don’t blame her.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Abby Zwerner is the teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student at Richneck Elementary School. The student was said to have intellectual and behavioral disabilities and had threatened another teacher at the school. The gun belonged to the boy’s mother, who says the gun was secured with a trigger lock on a closet shelf that was six feet high.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Ms. Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, detailed how teachers of the school were stopped at every turn by the school administration. If you’ll recall, the school received a tip about the student coming to school with a gun and did not call police about it. Now, we’ve learned the situation was much worse than that.

According to Ms. Toscano, Ms. Zwerner first approached the school at around 11:15 am, stating that the student threatened to beat up another student. At 12:30 pm, another teacher took it upon themselves to search the boy’s backpack, finding nothing. This teacher warned the school that the student may have put the gun in his pocket before going to recess and was told by an administrator, “Well, he has little pockets.”

A third teacher told the school the student showed the gun to another student and threatened to shoot the other student if he told anyone. This was around 1 pm. A fourth school employee asked for permission to search the boy and was denied. The school administrator told the employee to “wait the situation out because the school day was almost over.”

An hour later, Abby Zwerner was shot by the first-grade student. While she has been released from the hospital, Ms. Zwerner still has a long road to recovery. According to Ms. Toscano, the bullet from the shooting is still lodged in Abby Zwerner’s chest.

Ms. Toscano also commented, “were they not so paralyzed by apathy, they could have prevented this tragedy.” And you know what? She’s absolutely correct.

This isn’t a pack of cigarettes we’re talking about. We’re discussing a loaded firearm in the hands of a six-year-old child. The school should consider themselves lucky more people weren’t injured or worse. Yet, the school seems to have acted like the problem would go away if they just ignored it. Four different school employees came to the school with concerns about the likelihood of the student having a gun and were dismissed almost flippantly. The school was essentially just trying to get through the school day, so the six-year-old student with a gun could become someone else’s problem. They just wanted to release an armed six-year-old out into the public.

If at this point you’re thinking to yourself, “Boy, I hope someone got fired for this”, they did. Newport News School Superintendent George Parker, III, was removed from his position by a 5-1 vote from the school board. Of course, when someone gets fired from a position like this, they kind of fail upward. Mr. Parker will receive a severance package of $502,000. That’s two years worth of salary. If only most of us could be fired like that. I’d take a cool half a million to be fired from a job. Yet, teachers are still woefully underpaid and the schools have no money for resources.

The lone supporter of Mr. Parker appears to be school board member Gary Hunter. In defense of Parker, Mr. Hunter stated the following…

“What we’re going to do tonight will be a tragedy if we make a decision without completing an investigation,” he said, adding that Parker’s prior evaluations were “very good” and that “getting someone new is not going to fix the problem.”

“This problem is not a Newport News problem,” he said. “The big elephant in the room is the gun.”

While Mr. Hunter is correct that guns are the problem, the two are not mutually exclusive. While guns have no place in a classroom, Richneck Elementary’s response to one was nothing short of inhumane.


UPDATE 1/28/2023: It’s now being reported the principal and assistant principal of Richneck Elementary are no longer in their positions. Principal Briana Foster Newton is still employed with the school district in an unknown capacity. Assistant Principal Ebony Parker is said to have resigned from the school district. So far, I haven’t found what involvement, if any, either of the administrators had in the handling of the situation.

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