The first-grade teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student in Virginia has resigned from her position, school officials said Tuesday, more than two months after she sued the district for $40 million.
The last day of Abby Zwerner’s contract was Monday, Newport News Public Schools said in a statement. The district said that Zwerner notified human resources in March that she wouldn’t be returning next school year.
Zwerner, 25, was shot in the hand and chest as she sat at a reading table in her first-grade classroom on Jan. 6. She spent nearly two weeks in the hospital, has endured multiple surgeries and told NBC that she sometimes “ can’t get up out of bed.”
Zwerner filed her lawsuit in early April, alleging that school officials ignored multiple warnings that the boy had a gun and was in a violent mood that day.
The school board has pushed back, asking a judge to dismiss the case and arguing that Zwerner should get workers compensation instead.
WAVY-TV first reported that Zwerner no longer worked for the district on Tuesday. In an interview with the station, an attorney for Zwerner characterized her departure as a firing.
Lawyer Jeffrey Breit cited an email that school officials sent Zwerner in May, stating they had “processed a separation of employment for you effective the close of business 06/12/2023.”
Breit told WAVY: “I don’t’ think you can read this any other way than you’ve been fired. And that’s what she thinks. She doesn’t understand it; there’s no other communication.”
Newport News Public Schools refuted Breit’s claim in a statement Tuesday.
“Every employee who is separating from the school division receives a similar communication,” the district said.
The school system also provided emails between the district and Zwerner in which the teacher wrote: “I wish to resign. Thank you.”
Breit did not respond to an email and a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Zwerner’s resignation is yet another development in the aftermath of the shooting, which has reverberated through the shipbuilding city of about 180,000 people near the Atlantic coast.
The boy who shot Zwerner had used his mother’s gun. His mother, Deja Taylor, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to using marijuana while owning a firearm, which is illegal under U.S. law.
Taylor is facing charges on the state level of felony child neglect and reckless storage of a firearm. A trial for those counts is set for August.
Meanwhile, Zwerner’s $40 million lawsuit is pending.
Zwerner’s attorneys have said school officials knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the year before in which he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.
“Teachers’ concerns with John Doe’s behavior (were) regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed,” the lawsuit states.
In asking a judge to dismiss the case, the school board has argued that Zwerner’s injuries fall under the state’s workers compensation act.
The school board rejected Zwerner’s claim that she could reasonably expect to work with young children who pose no danger, pointing to numerous incidents of violence against teachers across the U.S. and in Newport News.
“While in an ideal world, young children would not pose any danger to others, including their teachers, this is sadly not reality,” the board stated.
The school board said Zwerner has refused to accept workers compensation.