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Prosecutor Howard Gwynn announced that the case against former assistant principal Ebony Parker, indicted on a felony child neglect charge at the elementary school in Newport News, Virginia, will be pursued. The charge stems from the incident where a 6-year-old student shot his teacher in January 2023. Gwynn expressed concern about the findings disclosed by a grand jury report but stated that the charge was justified, despite it being uncommon to bring charges against school administrators in such cases. The shooting at Richneck Elementary School, where the incident occurred, highlighted school safety issues and raised questions about adult accountability in situations involving student-instigated violence.

The legal community views charges against parents, administrators, or adults involved in school shootings as rare, but recent cases like the prosecution of the Michigan parents of a teenage school shooter have set precedents for similar cases. Gwynn emphasized the importance of sending a message through legal actions to ensure that the safety of children, staff, and administrators is taken seriously. Following the shooting at Richneck Elementary, which left the teacher, Abigail Zwerner, injured but alive, Parker was informed multiple times of concerns about the child’s behavior, yet failed to act decisively. Parker, who resigned post the incident, is now facing felony child abuse charges, with each charge representing the number of bullets the child had in the gun during the shooting.

The grand jury report outlined various details from the incident, including the child’s actions immediately before and during the shooting, with one of the findings stating that the child attempted to shoot his teacher again but failed due to a jammed firearm. Gwynn expressed dismay at the trauma experienced by students post the shooting and noted allegations regarding missing documents from the student’s behavioral file. Investigations are ongoing into the child’s behavioral issues leading to the shooting and circumstances surrounding the missing documents. The Newport News Public Schools board has implemented changes to enhance school safety and support students and staff in the aftermath of the incident.

Prosecutor Gwynn chose not to pursue charges against the 6-year-old shooter due to his age and inability to comprehend legal proceedings. However, he remains open to holding responsible any adults implicated in the case. The child’s family cited his “acute disability” and stated that he received necessary treatment following the incident. The child’s mother, Deja Taylor, also faced charges related to child neglect and is serving a prison sentence. Abigail Zwerner, the injured teacher, filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school district, alleging a systemic failure and neglect from administrators like Parker. Legal proceedings and investigations are ongoing to determine accountability and consequences for those involved in the shooting incident at Richneck Elementary School.

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