NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the Nov. 22 emails between Abby Zwerner and Richneck Elementary School administrators that 13News Now received via a FOIA request from Newport News School Division were in regards to behavioral difficulties with a boy who was not the same student accused of shooting Zwerner.
Newly obtained documents shed light on behavioral issues with another student at Richneck Elementary that teacher Abby Zwerner addressed with administrators in the months before she was shot by a different student at the school.
Police say a 6-year-old boy in Zwerner's first-grade classroom intentionally shot her on January 6. The shooting left the 25-year-old teacher critically hurt, but she has made progress in recovering and has since been released from the hospital.
In the aftermath of that shooting, 13News Now sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Newport News Public Schools, asking for all emails between Zwerner and school administrators between Nov. 1 and Jan. 6, the day of the shooting.
The documents we received in response from the school division included dozens of emails between Zwerner, then-Principal Briana Foster-Newton, and former Assistant Principal Dr. Ebony Parker. There are at least three separate email threads regarding behavioral issues with students, whose names were redacted in the documents to protect their identity.
In one email thread on Nov. 22, Zwerner informed Foster-Newton and Parker of three incidents with a boy inside her classroom. She said an incident had happened that morning and that the boy was in another teacher's classroom for the rest of the day.
"As of today, I do not feel comfortable with him returning to my classroom today..." Zwerner wrote in the email.
She also referenced two previous incidents with the same boy. On Oct. 11, she said the boy stuck up his middle finger to a classmate, and a month later on Nov. 11, she said the boy bumped "into a classmate while running around the class" and then pushed the classmate to the ground.
In the same Nov. 22 email thread, Parker suggests scheduling a conference with the boy's dad to discuss "behavioral difficulties" and "put some things in place to support" the boy.
Lawyers for both Foster-Newton and Zwerner have confirmed that this Nov. 22 email thread is not about the student who shot Zwerner on Jan. 6. The school division would not comment.
13News Now obtained the email correspondence between Zwerner and school administrators, just as students concluded their first week back in the classroom since the shooting. They showed resilience, adjusting to added safety and security measures, like a walk-thru metal detector and clear backpacks.
Since Jan. 6, Foster-Newton has been reassigned within the Newport News School Division and Parker has resigned.
On Jan. 25, Zwerner's attorney, Diane Toscano, announced her intent to file a lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools. Toscano claimed that Richneck teachers and employees warned administrators three different times that the student had a gun and was threatening people the day of the shooting.
On Feb. 2, the attorney representing former Foster-Newton said she wasn't one of the administrators warned about a 6-year-old student having a gun on campus.
The shooting has also prompted broader discussions about safety at Richneck Elementary and across the Newport News School Division.