The lawyer for the former principal of Richneck Elementary School said Thursday that her client was never told the 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher may have had a gun at school that day.
Pamela Branch, a Richmond attorney specializing in employment law, said some people have assumed inaccurately that Briana Foster-Newton was among the school administrators who were reportedly warned about the firearm.
“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,” she said.
Branch said her client will be reassigned to another job in the Newport News school system. She said she has received threatening voicemails and been subjected to misinformed social media posts since the Jan. 6 shooting.
Branch criticized what she called inaccurate reporting of some details of the shooting and the subsequent investigations. She declined to go into detail and did not take questions.
Foster-Newton did not attend Thursday’s news conference.
“She wants all her former staff, students, and the parents of Richneck Elementary School to know that she completely understands how upsetting and traumatic it has been to hear what has been reported about the horrific shooting of Ms. Abby Zwerner,” Branch said.
The attorney said she is praying for Zwerner and all those affected.
Foster-Newton has been an educator for about a decade and has worked for Newport News schools for six years, according to her attorney.
Since the shooting of Abigail Zwerner, critics have accused the Richneck Elementary administration and division leadership for their responses to concerns about student behavior.
Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, alleged in a press conference Jan. 25 that school administrators “failed to act” on several reports involving the student throughout the morning of the shooting.
Toscano outlined how staff had notified administrators three times about concerns the student had a gun before the shooting. One staff member reportedly searched the student’s backpack but did not find a gun.
Later, another staff member asked to search the student because it was believed he had the gun in his pocket, though was reportedly told, “Well, he has little pockets,” and was denied the request. Another report said a student went to a teacher crying and said another student had shown him a gun at recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone.
These allegations were made public hours before the school board voted to fire Superintendent George Parker III. After the Jan. 25 vote, School Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law said the decision to remove Parker was “based on the future trajectory and needs for our school division.”
Administrative changes at the elementary school have also been confirmed over the last several weeks.
The school reopened this week under the leadership of Karen Lynch, a longtime Newport News administrator.
A division spokesperson also confirmed the assistant principal, Ebony Parker, resigned. A number of new security measures have also been put in place.
Zwerner was released from the hospital, though Toscano said the bullet “remains dangerously inside her body.” She also announced her intent to file a lawsuit against the division.
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