RICHMOND, Va. — A 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot and wounded his first-grade teacher constantly cursed at staff and teachers, tried to whip students with his belt and once strangled another teacher «until she couldn’t breathe.» according to a legal notice filed by an attorney for the injured teacher.

The incidents were described in a notice sent to the Newport News school district by Diane Toscano, an attorney for teacher Abby Zwerner, informing the district that Zwerner intends to sue. The notice of complaint, obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, describes past behavior problems the boy had at Richneck Elementary School and problematic interactions she had with teachers and students.

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly «hit» Zwerner’s cell phone and smashed it, according to the lawsuit notice. She was given a one-day suspension, but when she returned to Zwerner’s class the next day, he pulled a 9mm pistol from her pocket and shot her as she sat at a table reading, the notice says. .

Abigail Zwerner.Abby Zwerner via Facebook

“It is a miracle that more people were not harmed,” Toscano wrote in his notice. “The shooter spent the entire recess with a gun in his pocket, a gun that was loaded and ready to fire … while a lot of first graders were playing.”

The choking incident described in the notice was confirmed by that teacher. She said that in 2021, the boy came up behind her as she sat in a chair at the front of the class, locked his forearms in front of her neck, and pulled back and down, hard. She said a teaching assistant took the boy off her.

The teacher requested anonymity because she fears possible retaliation from the school district. She said that she reported the incident to school administrators, but that she did not receive the type of supportive response that she expected from them.

“I didn’t feel safe the rest of the year because I knew if they didn’t protect me when I was suffocating and couldn’t breathe, then they wouldn’t protect me, my children or my colleagues if he did anything. not so damaging,” she told The Associated Press.

The boy was later transferred to another class at another school.

After the shooting, police said, the boy was taken to a medical center where he is receiving unspecified services.

The sent legal notice developed Zwerner’s allegations of negligence in Richneck on the morning of Jan. 6, which Toscano had first outlined last month at a news conference.

A detailed timeline describes how Zwerner, three other teachers and a school counselor were involved in raising concerns about the boy having a weapon.

«Had Assistant Principal (Ebony) Parker acted on the information provided to her, then the shooting of Ms. Zwerner would not have occurred,» the notice said.

Zwerner went to former Deputy Chief Parker’s office at around 11:15 am «to inform her that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood.» He also says the boy had threatened to hit a kindergarten student and was “glaring” at the school security officer in the lunchroom.

At about 11:45 a.m., another teacher learned that the boy had told students that he had a gun in his backpack, according to the notice. The teacher searched the backpack at around 12:30 pm but did not find any weapons.

The same teacher “realized that the shooter had taken something from her backpack just before she searched it, and the shooter put the item in the pocket of her hoodie before going out for recess,” the notice said.

When that teacher raised his concerns with Parker, the assistant principal said the student «had small pockets, implying that he could not have a weapon on his person,» the complaint notice said.

“Assistant Principal Parker should have called the police,” the notice read. «Instead, she failed to follow proper protocol and chose to do absolutely nothing.»

Students exit a school bus during the first day back at Richneck Elementary School on Monday, January 30, 2023 in Newport News, Virginia.  The Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher has reopened with beefed up security and a new administrator.
Students get off a school bus on January 30, the first day back at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.John C. Clark/AP

Shortly after 1 p.m., a third teacher learned from a student in Zwerner’s class that the shooter showed him the gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone, according to the notice.

That teacher called the school office and shared what she knew with a fourth teacher who answered the office phone, the notice said. The fourth teacher relayed the information to Parker, who said that she was aware of the threat and that the student’s backpack had been searched.

The third and fourth masters consulted again. And the fourth teacher returned to Parker’s office, where a school counselor was raising similar concerns about the student having a weapon, the notice said.

The guidance counselor asked if he could search the boy for a weapon, to which Parker said «no» because the boy’s mother would be arriving soon to pick him up, according to the notice.

“Then, approximately 45 minutes later, the shooter shot Ms. Zwerner in the left hand and upper chest,” the notice said. «EM. Zwerner was sitting at her desk reading when the shooter, who was sitting at her desk, took the gun out of her pocket and shot her once.»

Parker, who resigned from her position last month, could not immediately be reached for comment. A school district spokeswoman said she did not know if Parker had retained an attorney.

Len Wallin, the school system’s director of legal services, said in an email that it’s standard practice for the school division to send notices of intent to sue to its insurer, which handles such litigation.

Wallin said the district’s insurer will handle decisions about whether to represent Parker «after consulting with the school board, if necessary.»

Meanwhile, Toscano wrote in his notice that Zwerner continues to recover physically and psychologically from wounds that «cut deep and stay fresh.»

“I hope the school district does not want to drag Ms. Zwerner into litigation after the trauma she has suffered,” Toscano wrote.

“The response from the school district will be very important and shed light on how you view your teachers,” Toscano continued. I hope the school district doesn’t send the message that getting shot while a student is teaching a lesson in class is just a job hazard.»