The Virginia teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student texted a loved one before she was wounded that the boy was armed and that school officials were failing to act, according to a source close to the situation.
The source said Tuesday that Abigail Zwerner sent the text about an hour before she was shot on Jan. 6, saying that the student said he had a gun in his backpack and that administrators at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News weren’t helping.
The text “showed her frustration,” said the source, who disclosed details of only the single text message to NBC News and not the messages that came before or after it. “She was frustrated because she was trying to get help with this child, for this child, and then when she needed help, no one was coming.”
Asked about Zwerner’s text message and previous safety concerns from teachers and staff members, Newport News Public Schools spokesperson Michelle Price said: “Anything that has been reported to our school leadership team in regards to concerns at Richneck from teachers and staff members is part of the investigation. It’s being thoroughly investigated.”
Zwerner’s attorney Diane Toscano said at a news conference Wednesday morning that three teachers went to the school administration about the boy’s behavior on Jan. 6 and that he was believed to have had a gun on campus.
Zwerner first went to a school administrator between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and said the student had threatened to beat up a classmate, Toscano said. A second teacher went to a school administrator at 12:30 p.m. and said the teacher had taken it upon herself to search the boy’s backpack.
“The administrator downplayed the report from the teacher and the possibility of a gun,” Toscano said.
A third teacher told an administrator shortly before 1 p.m. that the boy showed a student the gun at recess and “threatened to shoot him if he told anybody,” Toscano said.
A fourth employee asked an administrator for permission to search the boy and was denied, Toscano said.
The administrator told the employee to “wait the situation out because the school day was almost over,” Toscano said.
Toscano said that the “administration could not be bothered” and that the tragedy would have been “entirely preventable” if the administration “had taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger,” adding, “But instead, they failed to act, and Abby was shot.”
Toscano said she plans to sue on Zwerner’s behalf.
Before the news conference, the law firm representing the Zwerner family said it could not confirm the text, and it did not respond to requests for comment from the family.
Toscano called Zwerner the “best of us,” a dedicated teacher who endured the unthinkable: “being shot purposely by a 6-year-old student in front of her first-grade class while teaching.”
Zwerner still has a bullet lodged dangerously in her body, Toscano said.
“Today she is in between surgeries and physical therapy appointments with a career in question,” Toscano said, adding that Zwerner is at home and gaining strength.
“The road to full recovery will be long, and as her physical condition improves, the psychological wounds cut deeply and remain fresh,” Toscano said.
The school system’s superintendent, George Parker III, said at a virtual town hall this month that the boy had come to school late and that his book bag was inspected when he arrived at the office to sign in, said parents who watched the meeting.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” Parker said in a video reviewed by NBC News.