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    ‘Reckless’: Former Virginia Assistant Principal Charged with 8 Felonies for Every Bullet In Gun of 6-Year-Old Who Shot His Teacher, But Some Wonder If She’s a ‘Scapegoat’

    By Yasmeen Freightman,


    A former elementary school assistant principal in Virginia faces several felony child neglect charges after being accused of failing to prevent a 6-year-old boy from shooting his first-grade teacher last year.

    Authorities charged 39-year-old Dr. Ebony Parker with eight counts of felony child neglect after she allegedly showed “a reckless disregard for the human life” of students at Richneck Elementary School, according to newly unsealed court documents obtained by the Virginian-Pilot.

    Parker was released from jail on bond early Wednesday morning, according to the Newport News Sheriff’s Office.
    Former Richneck Elementary School Assistant Principal Ebony Parker, 39, was charged with eight counts of felony child neglect in connection to an incident in which a 6-year-old boy shot his first-grade teacher. (Photo: Newport News Police Department)

    Parker’s eight counts are for “each of the eight bullets that endangered all the students in Ms. Abigal Zwerner’s first grade classroom,” the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said in a press release Wednesday.

    Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison.

    Those charges are connected to a shooting on January 6, 2023, in which a first-grader pulled a handgun out of his hoodie and shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, while the two of them were sitting at a reading table.

    The bullet that struck Zwerner went through her left hand and into her upper chest. Zwerner survived her injuries. The first-grader would have continued shooting if the gun didn’t jam.

    The boy said he got the gun from his mother’s pocketbook that sat on top of her dresser before bringing it to school that day. His mother, 26-year-old Deja Taylor , pleaded guilty to felony child neglect in connection to the shooting and was sentenced to two years in prison.

    She was also given a 21-month prison term for possessing marijuana and a gun at the same time after she lied about her drug use on a gun purchasing form and is barred from seeing her son until he turns 18.

    Now, Parker faces prosecution in the shooting case. She served as Richneck’s assistant principal for about two years but resigned after the shooting.

    The indictments state she was “a person responsible for the care of students under the age of 18 at Richneck Elementary School,” yet committed “a willful act or omission in the care of such students” that was “so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”

    The shooting took place in front of more than a dozen first-grade students, according to police.

    Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against the Newport News school system, Parker, and two others that alleged Parker disregarded the warnings of multiple teachers who came directly to her and said the child had a gun.

    According to her complaint, Zwerner approached Parker the morning of the shooting and told her the boy was in a “violent mood” and “threatened to beat up a kindergartner during lunchtime,” but Parker had “no response.”

    As the day progressed, several teachers saw the boy pull something out of his backpack during recess. A reading specialist, Amy Kovac, didn’t find a gun after searching his bag but Zwerner told her that she observed the child put something in his jacket pocket and kept his hands hidden.

    Kovac confirmed to Parker that a gun was not found in the boy’s bag but shared that it may be in his jacket instead. Parker dismissed her concern and said the boy has “little pockets,” according to a special grand jury report released on Wednesday.

    During recess period, a teacher observed the 6-year-old behind a rock out of view with another student. At the end of the recess period, the teacher pulled the “visibly scared and shaking” student aside to learn that the boy confirmed he had a gun and showed him the bullets.

    Another complaint was then made, now just 20 minutes before the shooting, but Parker told a teacher the child’s bag “had already been searched,” the report states. A request was made to search the student, as is permitted by the school’s written policy in their administration manual, but Parker said the student’s mother would pick him up soon.

    The report noted that the principal, Briana Foster, wasn’t aware of the incidents as she was moving in and out of meetings.

    A Norfolk attorney representing the families of seven Richneck students who also filed suit against the Newport News school division said her clients “may find comfort in knowing that the administration is being held accountable.”

    “The suffering of the students of Richneck has been ignored,” Emily Brannon told the Virginian-Pilot . “These charges suggest that there is sufficient evidence that the students of Richneck were placed in peril by the very hands entrusted to protect them…I remain optimistic that our criminal justice system will provide answers to the Richneck community.”

    However, some have questioned why the assistant principal is facing charges for the shooting and why more heat is not coming down on other education officials.

    “Scapegoat situation? The county BOE dept should be taking the heat for this. Provide schools with what they need to fight this nonsense, or pay the consequences,” one person wrote on X.

    The student’s behavioral problems had been documented at least one year prior. In his kindergarten year, he was accused of kicking and spitting at a teacher’s assistant. He also choked his classroom teacher, prompting her to give administrators an ultimatum to either remove the student from the classroom permanently or she would leave.
    Example of behavioral issues of 6-year-old who shot his first grade teacher. (Screenshot of Special Grand Jury Report)

    Disciplinary records for the 6-year-old went missing after the shooting. One physical copy of the record should have been in the main office and another in the teacher’s office. However, according to the report, police came up empty-handed after executing a search warrant.

    “Every other student’s file was in both locations,” the report states. “The child’s was the only file that was in neither location.”

    One file showed up when a school administrator returned it to the office claiming it was either in her home or car, the report states. The second file was never found.

    While the investigation into the shooting continues, it is unclear if Parker will be the only school administrator to face charges.

    A day after news of Parker’s charges dropped, the first parents ever to be charged and convicted in a mass school shooting case were sentenced for involuntary manslaughter.

    Jennifer and James Crumbley will spend between 10 to 15 years in prison for their roles in the deadly attack at Oxford High School in Michigan on November 30, 2021. Four students were killed by their son, 17-year-old Ethan, who is currently serving a life sentence for his actions.

    Prosecutors argued that Ethan’s parents failed to prevent the shooting by ignoring their son’s mental health needs and purchasing the gun he used in the shooting.

    ‘Reckless’: Former Virginia Assistant Principal Charged with 8 Felonies for Every Bullet In Gun of 6-Year-Old Who Shot His Teacher, But Some Wonder If She’s a ‘Scapegoat’

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