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Richneck principal wasn't informed of student having gun on campus, attorney says

The attorney for the former principal, Briana Foster-Newton, said she wasn't one of the administrators warned about a 6-year-old student having a gun on campus.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The attorney for the former principal of Richneck Elementary School said her client wasn't warned that a 6-year-old student had brought a gun on campus the day boy shot his teacher.

Attorney Pamela Branch made a statement Thursday afternoon on behalf of Briana Foster-Newton, who is being reassigned from Richneck following the Jan. 6 shooting that seriously injured first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner.

RELATED | What we know about the Richneck Elementary School shooting

"The fact of the matter is that those who were aware that the student may have had a gun on the premises that day did not report this to Mrs. Newton at all," Branch said. "I repeat: Mrs. Newton was unfortunately not one of the administrators who was informed by those in school that day who had this critical information."

The statement comes after Zwerner's attorney announced her intention to sue Newport News Public Schools (NNPS), claiming that Richneck administrators failed to act after several warnings that a student brought a gun to school.

The school division's spokeswoman said the only administrators at Richneck Elementary are the principal and assistant principal.

Since the shooting, Richneck Assistant Principal Dr. Ebony Parker resigned for undisclosed reasons and the Newport News School Board ousted its superintendent, Dr. George Parker III. 

Karen Lynch, who works with NNPS, is currently leading the team at Richneck as "administrator on special assignment."

A spokesperson for NNPS confirmed Newton was at work on the day of the shooting.

Branch claimed her client received "threatening voicemails wishing her ill" and has been subject to "misinformed social media posts" following the shooting.

"It's very easy to demonize people you don't know when in the midst of an obviously upsetting and traumatic situation for everyone, such as what happened on January the 6th," Branch said.

Branch continued by saying the current school year was Newton's first as principal at Richneck, adding that her client was "prepared and excited to have a successful school year" and has experience and a list of achievements.

Branch said Newton wants all of her former staff, students, and parents at Richneck to know that she understands how upsetting the situation has been.

"We certainly pray for Ms. Zwerner's continued healing process and all those who witnessed or were otherwise impacted by that shooting on that day," Branch said.

Following the statement, NNPS spokesperson Michelle Price said the school system can't comment specifically on what Branch said due to the ongoing investigation.

Price also confirmed that Lynch is the only administrator at Richneck right now and the assistant principal position remains open.

Branch would not say if Foster-Newton plans to take any legal action against the school division or anyone else involved in this incident.

13News Now reached out to Zwerner's attorney, Diane Toscano, for comment on Branch's remarks. Toscano said she could not comment on the latest statements at this time. 


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