Attorney: Former Virginia elementary school principal was not told 6-year-old had gun

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The former principal of a Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old allegedly shot his first-grade teacher was not aware of reports that the student was armed, her attorney said Thursday.

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During a news conference in Richmond, attorney Pamela Branch said that former Principal Briana Foster-Newton said she was not part of the “unidentified school administrators” reported to have known the child had brought a gun to Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Jan. 6, The Daily Press reported.

Richneck Elementary teacher Abigail Zwerner, 25, was wounded in the shooting, which is the third on school property in the district over the past 18 months, The Virginian-Pilot reported. There were shootings in 2021 at Heritage and Menchville high schools, according to the newspaper.

Branch criticized reporting about the circumstances that led to the shooting and how they were handled by school administrators.

“It continues to be reported that unidentified school administrators were aware that the 6-year-old student had a gun at school on Jan. 6 and simply failed to act,” Branch told reporters. “Mrs. Newton has been assumed to have been one of those administrators. However, this is far from the truth. 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.

“I repeat, Ms. Newton was, unfortunately, not one of the administrators who was informed by those in the school that day who had this critical information.”

Branch added that Foster-Newton is still employed by the district, WTKR-TV reported.

“She has not been officially reassigned (to a new position within the district), but she will be,” she said.

Branch did not take questions. Foster-Newton did not attend the news conference, according to The Daily Press.

Branch’s comments come eight days after George Parker III, who had been superintendent of Newport News Public Schools since 2018, was terminated by the Newport News School Board by a 5-1 vote, WTKR-TV reported. His last day on the job was Wednesday.

Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned from her position last week, according to the television station.

Karen Lynch, who has worked as a principal in Newport News for 17 years, is now listed as the school’s administrator, according to The Associated Press.

Zwermer was shot in the chest after the bullet passed through one of her hands, Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew told reporters. She was released from an area hospital two weeks ago, according to WAVY-TV.

Diane Toscano, Zwermer’s attorney, said she intended to file a lawsuit on behalf of the teacher against the school district, the television station reported.

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