Teacher Shot by Six-Year-Old Sues Former School District


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Abby Zwerner, 25, was shot by an unnamed six-year-old while she was teaching in her first-grade classroom on Jan. 6, 2023. Now Zwerner has filed a lawsuit against her old school district, Newport News, for $40 million citing the district’s lack of action as the reason she was injured.

In Zwerner’s lawsuit, she alleges that school administrators were told by other teachers that the student brought a gun to school prior to the shooting and “had a history of random violence,” yet did nothing to stop him from harming her.

Lawyers for the Newport News School District filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that Zwerner’s injuries fell under Virginia’s Worker’s Compensation Act. The compensation act gives employees “the right to assert no-fault liability against their employers,” according to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The motion argues that under the act, Zwerner is barred “from maintaining a cause of action against the School Defendants for the injures she sustained in the course of her employment as a first-grade teacher with Newport News School.” Therefore, the Newport News Circuit Court lacks authority over Zwerner’s claims about the injuries she sustained during the shooting.

The motion additionally stated that the Newport News school district offered Zwerner worker’s compensation, which she denied and filed suit instead.

The motion continues by stating that “Zwerner goes as far as to claim that she reasonably anticipated that ‘she would be working with young (elementary school) children who posed no danger to her.’ While in an ideal world, young children would not pose any danger to others, including their teachers, this is sadly not reality.”

The motion concludes by stating, “Zwerner was clearly injured while at work,” as she performed “a core function” of her job.

Zwerner’s lawyers stated in an interview with CNN, “The school board’s position is contrary to how every citizen in Newport News thinks teachers should be treated, and the law does not support the board’s position. Teachers across the district will be alarmed to learn their employer sees this as part of the job description.”