School staff recall requests for help, past incidents preceding 6-year-old shooting teacher

Staff at the Virginia school where a 6-year-old boy shot a teacher have recalled requests for help the teacher made about the student that were reportedly ignored and incidents preceding the shooting that raised concerns about the boy’s behavior. 

The Washington Post reported Saturday that educators at the school said the teacher, Abigail Zwerner, had repeatedly asked school officials for help with handling the boy but was ignored.

You are reading: School staff recall requests for help, past incidents preceding 6-year-old shooting teacher

The Post reviewed screenshots of an online conversation between teachers at the school and Newport News Superintendent George Parker III that it reported show several staffers saying that Zwerner had asked for help throughout the school year prior to the shooting. 

One staff member wrote that “she had asked for help,” per the outlet, while others said “several times,” “two hours prior” and “all year.” 

The Post received the messages from the spouse of a teacher at the school. 

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The messages shared by the newspaper did not clarify what help Zwerner asked for or whom she asked for help

The incident occurred on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va. Officials say the boy shot Zwerner with a handgun but that no one else was injured. 

Zwerner sustained life-threatening injuries but recovered and was released from the hospital earlier this week. She is continuing to recover as an outpatient. 

Officials have confirmed that the gun the student used was legally purchased by his mother, but they have not said how he got possession of the weapon. 

The Post reported a separate message from a teacher who said the boy once wrote a teacher a note saying that he hated her and wanted to light her on fire. The teacher who received the note told administrators about it but was told to drop the issue, according to the message.

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The teacher requested anonymity to avoid possible retaliation, per the Post.

The message said the boy also once threw furniture and other items in the classroom, leading other students in the class to hide under their desks, according to the Post. He also barricaded the doors to a classroom and blocked a teacher and students from leaving, the message reportedly said. 

The teacher said the boy was not receiving the educational assistance he needed and that he sometimes walked around the school unsupervised, according to the Post. 

The family of the boy has said he has an “acute disability” and that one of his parents was usually in class with him, though not during the week of the shooting. 

School officials searched the boy’s backpack for a weapon ahead of the shooting but did not find anything.

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