Educators furious over claims Virginia teacher Abby Zwerner's injuries are 'workplace injury'

Abby Zwerner
Richneck Elem. shooting scene
Richneck Elementary School
Posted at 10:12 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-05 22:12:16-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia. — Educators in Newport News are outraged over claims that Abby Zwerner's shooting is a "workplace injury."

The school board argues that Zwerner's injuries fall under Virginia's Workers' Compensation Act.

President of Newport News Education Association and teacher Dr. James Graves said the school board's argument is "disgusting."

"It's disgraceful, and it's just so out of touch with the education system," Graves said.

Abby Zwerner

The pain of the January 6th shooting at Richneck still lingers with teachers like Dr. Graves.

"Getting shot at a school system is not part of our contract," he said. "We are not supposed to be getting shot at school."

The education association has stood in support of first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner. Police say a 6-year-old shot her in her classroom.

In April, Zwerner filed a lawsuit, seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence for allegedly ignoring multiple warnings on the day of the shooting that the boy had a gun and was in a “violent mood.”


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Last week, the attorneys representing the school board filed a motion in response, which argues Zwerner is only entitled to file a workers' compensation claim, and that her injuries sustained in the school shooting fall under the state's Workers Compensation Act.

"We're not going to tolerate this, and that's it wrong to say to 'teachers it's okay to get shot and then you just get workers' comp.' That's not fair and it's wrong" said Dr. Graves.

That same opinion was expressed by Virginia Republican leader Thomas Norment.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook statementposted Tuesday from the education association, Graves says all school staff who work with students, including security officers, have expressed concern about the motion, calling it a "slap in our faces."

"What these attorneys have done is created a hurricane in our school system," said Dr. Graves.

John Baker, a personal injury lawyer with Cooper Hurley helps break down what the workers' compensation typically covers.

"Any injuries and treatment related to the injury, they will have essentially been paid for by the explorer or the carrier, or any lost wages that occurred will be covered as well," said Baker. "Things that you cannot recover for in a workers compensation claim would be the pain and suffering and inconvenience of having gone through that injury."

Zwerner's legal team said being shot by a student should not be considered one of the "risks of teaching."

"This is unfair for teachers—we're tired of being walked on," said Dr. Graves.

WTKR reporter Kelsey Jones reached out to the Newport News school system several times on Thursday, but said there has been no comment at last check.

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