District reassigns principal of Virginia school where boy, 6, allegedly shot teacher, spokesperson says
By Brian Todd, Hannah Sarisohn, Nicole Grether and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
The principal of Richneck Elementary School in Virginia has been reassigned within Newport News Public Schools, according to a spokesperson for the district.
In an email to CNN confirming the reassignment, the district would not say where it was reassigning former principal Briana Foster Newton.
School and district leadership have come under fire in the weeks since a first grader allegedly shot a teacher inside a Richneck classroom on January 6, with students there slated to resume classes for the first time since the incident on Monday.
The school on Sunday announced new protocols ahead of the students’ return.
Last week, a lawyer representing injured teacher Abby Zwerner, 25, said school administrators were warned that the child had a gun the day of the shooting. The school board also voted out superintendent George Parker III, whose last day is scheduled for Wednesday. Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker has also resigned from her position following the shooting.
“At the time of the shooting incident on January 6, Briana Foster Newton served as the principal of Richneck Elementary and Dr. Ebony Parker served as the assistant principal. Briana Foster Newton is still employed with Newport News Public Schools. Dr. Ebony Parker resigned. That is all that I can share at this time,” the district told CNN Sunday.
Karen Lynch will serve as the administrator on special assignment “leading the Richneck team and coordinating the students’ return to instruction,” the district said.
According to the district, Lynch is an “Extended Learning Supervisor and experienced elementary school principal.”
The district said support services provided since the shooting will continue on site as students return on Monday.
The district told CNN it is permanently adding two school division security officers as well as two “state-of-the-art” metal detectors at Richneck.
As Police Chief Steve Drew has said, “no School Resource Officers have been assigned to Richneck. In addition, doors have been installed in classroom areas without one, and others have been repaired or replaced,” the district told CNN.
The district, citing ongoing investigations, would not comment “regarding what occurred in the office following the shooting incident.”
Following the announcement of her appointment Sunday, administrator Lynch sent an email to students’ families highlighting new protocols for the first day of full instruction.
The email states that parents should expect a police presence on campus ready to “assist with the transition.”
Lynch encouraged families to send their children to school using “their typical mode of transportation to school and home” and asked that families send their children to school without a book bag as the school will provide them with clear book bags for use on Monday.
If students bring lunch items to school, those items will be run through a metal detection unit and are subject to search, the email reads.
The school will be limiting visitors in the school leading during this first week of instruction to allow “staff the opportunity to establish routines and procedures with students,” according to the email. Parents are not allowed to enter classrooms and those who chose to walk their children to class must show identification and are also subject to search, it added.
The school also shared an Amazon Wish List of emotional support items that teachers had requested for students to aid in the healing process in a post on the school’s Facebook account Sunday evening.
Richneck Elementary has been closed since the shooting, and some parents have expressed their concern ahead of classes resuming. Mark Garcia Sr. told CNN last week that his son is in the same class as the student accused of shooting Zwerner and has been distraught since the shooting.
“This is a scary situation, my son is still scared,” Garcia told CNN. “He wants to go back to school, but he just wants to know that he’s gonna to be safe, and that’s the biggest thing.”
The school’s alleged failure to act is “horrifying,” Garcia said, adding, “The people who know about this failed us and they failed the security measures of everyone that’s inside of that school.”
The shooting occurred after an altercation between Zwerner and the student, who pointed the gun at her and fired a single round, Police Chief Drew said at the time.
Zwerner was critically injured when a bullet passed through one of her hands and struck her chest, police have said. The teacher has since been released from hospital.
On January 25, Zwerner’s attorney announced she was filing a lawsuit against the school district.
“Over the course of a few hours, three different times — three times — school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people,” attorney Diane Toscano told reporters.
Toscano said the administration “failed to act” despite having “knowledge of imminent danger.”
After the shooting, the boy was placed under temporary detention order and was evaluated at a local hospital. He remains unidentified publicly, but his family has been releasing statements through their attorney.
On January 19, the family said the boy has an “acute disability” and was receiving care at the school. A family member usually went to class with him, but not the week of the shooting, they said.
“We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the family statement said.
According to the family, the gun allegedly used was secured before the shooting.
The police chief has indicated the boy’s mother could possibly face charges in the shooting.
Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way that it could endanger a child under the age of 14. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.
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CNN’s Aya Elamroussi, Dakin Andone, Samantha Beech and Susannah Cullinane contributed to this report.