Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old student hires attorney

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The first-grade teacher from Virginia who was shot and seriously wounded by a 6-year-old student has hired a trial attorney to represent her.

Diane Toscano, the founder of the Toscano Law Group in Virginia Beach, said in a media advisory Tuesday that she plans to share an update on the Newport News teacher, Abigail Zwerner, and release new information about the Jan. 6 shooting on Wednesday.

The advisory said Toscano will also “address next steps” but did not specify whether Zwerner plans to file a lawsuit against the Newport News school district or school administrators. Toscano did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Police say Zwerner, 25, was shot by a student in her class as she was teaching at Richneck Elementary School. Police Chief Steve Drew has repeatedly characterized the shooting as “intentional,” saying the boy had the gun “on his person,” aimed the gun at Zwerner and fired one round, striking her in the hand and chest.

Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks but has been released and is continuing her recovery on an outpatient basis, a hospital spokesperson said.

Toscano’s media advisory said Zwerner will not attend the news briefing Wednesday.

Toscano is a former prosecutor who worked in the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office from 2006 to 2009. Her law firm handles criminal defense cases and civil litigation.

Earlier this month two of her clients — former college football players who claimed they were repeatedly hazed and sexually assaulted by older teammates — settled a federal lawsuit against Norfolk State University.

Newport News Superintendent George Parker III has been sharply criticized by parents and teachers who have called for his resignation or firing.

Six days after the shooting, Parker revealed that at least one administrator had been told the day of the shooting that the boy may have had a weapon. He said the student’s backpack was searched, but none was found.

Police have said school officials did not tell them about that tip before the shooting, which happened hours later.

The gun was legally purchased by the boy’s mother, according to police. In a statement last week, the family said the gun was secured. Attorney James Ellenson told The Associated Press that according to his understanding, it was in the woman’s closet on a shelf well over 6 feet high and had a trigger lock requiring a key.

The family also said in its statement that the boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan “that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.”

The week of the shooting was the first when a parent was not in class with him, the family said, adding, “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”

During a raucous school board meeting, teachers and parents said administrators had been dismissive of repeated complaints about misbehavior. They said students who assaulted classmates and staff were routinely allowed to stay in the classroom with few consequences due to a misguided emphasis on attendance and other education statistics.

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