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‘Failures in accountability:’ Abby Zwerner’s lawyer ready to file lawsuit

By Antoinette DelBel,


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – A civil suit has now been drafted and is ready to file on behalf of Abby Zwerner, according to her legal team Toscano Law Group. The Richneck Elementary teacher was allegedly shot by her first-grade student in January.

On Tuesday, Zwerner’s lawyer Diane Toscano told News 3 they are filing the lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools in two weeks.

“We’ve drafted the legal complaint and it is ready to file,” said Toscano.

Zwerner spoke publicly for the first time on NBC's "TODAY" show .

The 25-year-old said her recovery has been challenging. She’s had four surgeries so far and admits some days are a struggle where she can’t even get out of bed. She said, however, she’s trying to stay positive even though that day still haunts her.

During the interview, Zwerner relived the harrowing moment she said her 6-year-old student pulled a gun out and shot her during class.

“You know, I’m not sure when the shock will ever go away because of just how surreal it was and, you know, the vivid memories that I have of that day,” Zwerner said. “I think about it daily. Sometimes I have nightmares.”

Zwerner said the bullet went through her hand and in her chest, adding she could have died that disturbing day on Jan. 6 had she not thrown her hand up to soften the blow.

"I remember him pointing the gun at me,” she said. “I remember the look on his face. I remember the gun going off. I remember feeling something. It was a pretty scary day."

A scary day her lawyer said could have been prevented.

“Abby has suffered an unthinkable tragedy that will affect her for the rest of her life,” said Toscano.

Toscano claims school administrators repeatedly ignored warning signs in the few hours leading up to the shooting.

“There were failures in accountability on many levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed by a 6-year-old student and we will use the legal tools available to us to hold people accountable for those failures,” Toscano said.

The tragedy led to changes within the school system, including the firing of the superintendent.

Zwerner has also changed, telling NBC she’ll never be the same.

"There’s some things that I’ll never forget,” she said. “I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me. That’s something that I will never forget. It’s changed me. It’s changed my life."

The Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney said earlier this month that the 6-year-old boy will not face charges. Toscano said she can’t comment on that because of pending litigation but added that she is watching the prosecutor’s office closely on who will be charged in the next couple of weeks.

Newport News Public Schools released a statement Tuesday evening but couldn't comment on the interview.

“The Newport News Public Schools is aware of teacher Abby Zwerner’s interview with The Today Show on Tuesday. While we cannot comment on the interview or Ms. Zwerner’s comments, we appreciate her sharing her story.

As a school community, we continue to recover and support one another after the terrible event of January 6 at Richneck Elementary School. We have also been working in partnership with our community to address safety and security throughout the division.

This effort has centered on the creation of three advisory committees focused on family engagement, school safety, and student rights and responsibilities. We sent out a call for members and received over 500 applications for the three committees. The first meetings were held last week.

Additionally, the division has added more security measures in our schools, including weapons detection systems and additional school security officers. We are engaging an independent school security consultant to conduct assessments. We have also moved forward with a comprehensive review of student behavior and supports, while expanding our partnerships with local law enforcement agencies.

We want our community to know that the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is our most important priority. We will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure a safe and secure teaching and learning environment across all our schools. We appreciate the support of our community as we move forward.”

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