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School board argues teacher shooting falls under 'workplace injuries'

Fellow educators are calling the school board's position in the case "disgusting."
Teacher Abby Zwerner
Posted at 11:30 AM, May 05, 2023

Educators in Newport News, Virginia, are outraged over claims that the shooting of a teacher is a "workplace injury."

In response to a lawsuit filed by teacher Abby Zwerner, the school board argues that her injuries fall under Virginia's Workers' Compensation Act.

President of Newport News Education Association and teacher Dr. James Graves said the school board's argument is "disgusting."

"It's disgraceful, and it's just so out of touch with the education system," Graves said.

The pain of the Jan. 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School still lingers with teachers like Graves.

"Getting shot at a school system is not part of our contract," he said. "We are not supposed to be getting shot at school."

The education association has stood in support of Zwerner, who police say was shot by a 6-year-old student. 

In April, Zwerner filed the lawsuit, seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence for allegedly ignoring multiple warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun and was in a “violent mood.”

Mother charged in connection to shooting of teacher Abby Zwerner

Mother charged in connection to shooting of teacher Abby Zwerner

A grand jury indicted a mother with child neglect, recklessly leaving a loaded firearm to endanger a child after a 6-year-old shot a Virginia teacher.


Last week, the attorneys representing the school board filed a motion in response, which argues Zwerner is only entitled to file a workers' compensation claim, and that her injuries sustained in the school shooting fall under the state's Workers Compensation Act.

"We're not going to tolerate this, and it's wrong to say to teachers, 'It's OK to get shot and then you just get workers' comp.' That's not fair and it's wrong" said Graves. 

That same opinion was expressed by Virginia Republican leader Thomas Norment. 

Meanwhile, in a Facebook statement posted Tuesday from the education association, Graves said all school staff who work with students, including security officers, have expressed concern about the motion, calling it a "slap in our faces."

"What these attorneys have done is created a hurricane in our school system," said Graves.

Zwerner's legal team said being shot by a student should not be considered one of the "risks of teaching."

"This is unfair for teachers. We're tired of being walked on," said Graves.

This story was originally published by Kelsey Jones on wtkr.com.

A school bus outside Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.

'I thought I had died': Teacher shot by 6-year-old student speaks out

For the first time, first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner is speaking out about the day she was shot by her 6-year-old student at Richneck Elementary.