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Teacher shot by student discusses challenges in recovery

Eliza Noe, Daily Press on

Published in News & Features

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Abby Zwerner, the first grade teacher shot in January by her student at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, made her first public appearance Monday in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC Nightly News.

Zwerner was in the middle of class just before 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 when police say a 6-year-old student suddenly pointed a gun at her and fired one round. Zwerner took a defensive position, bringing a hand up to protect herself. The bullet entered her hand, went out the other side and then entered her upper chest.

She then shuffled the other students — between 17 and 20 children — out of the classroom. The school’s video surveillance footage showed the students, followed by Zwerner, leaving the class, with Zwerner stopping at one point to make sure the students were safe. The students went to another classroom, while Zwerner went to an administration office where staffers began aiding her.

According to her interview, she’s had four surgeries as a result of her injuries. Her most recent was on her injured hand, which she can not fully use.

“It’s been challenging,” she said. “I’ve gone through a lot of obstacles and challenges. Some days are not-so-good days, where I can’t get up out of bed. Some days are better than others where I’m able to get out of bed and make it to my appointment.”


On Jan. 25, Zwerner’s attorney Diane Toscano claimed school administrators had been notified of concerns regarding the student multiple times on the morning of the shooting. James Ellenson, an attorney for the 6-year-old’s mother, responded to Toscano’s allegations, saying the student “needed to be protected from himself,” and it was incumbent on the Newport News Public Schools to do so.

On March 9, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn confirmed that the child will not face charges, and charges against any adults involved have not been brought forward yet. Police have said the child’s mother legally purchased the handgun, a 9mm Taurus, and that the boy brought it to school in his backpack.

“For going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive,” Zwerner said. “(I) try to have a positive outlook on what’s happened and where my future’s heading.”

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