Former Virginia assistant principal charged with child neglect in case of student who shot teacher

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The former assistant principal of a Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot and wounded his first-grade teacher last year has been indicted on eight felony counts of child neglect.

A special grand jury found that Ebony Parker showed a “reckless disregard for the human life” of the other students at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia, unsealed court documents show.

Each of the charges is punishable by up to five years in prison.

According to authorities, Parker, of Newport News, was working the day the 6-year-old fired a single shot at his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, during a reading class.

Zwerner has filed a $40 million lawsuit alleging that Parker, 39, ignored several warnings that the boy had a gun in school that day. Zwerner was shot in the chest and hand in the shooting but has recovered.

The boy told authorities he got his mother’s 9mm handgun by climbing onto a drawer to reach the top of a dresser, where the firearm was in his mom’s purse. He concealed the weapon in his backpack and then his pocket before shooting his teacher.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner

Zwerner family


In the lawsuit, Zwerner’s lawyers describe a series of warnings that school employees gave administrators in the hours before the shooting, beginning with Zwerner, who went to Parker’s office and told her the boy “was in a violent mood,” had threatened to beat up a kindergartener and stared down a security officer in the lunchroom. The lawsuit alleges that Parker “had no response, refusing even to look up at (Zwerner) when she expressed her concerns.”

The lawsuit also alleges that a reading specialist told Parker that the boy had told students he had a gun. Parker responded that his “pockets were too small to hold a handgun and did nothing,” the lawsuit states.

The indictments allege that Parker “did commit a willful act or omission in the care of such students, in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”

The special grand jury issued the indictments on March 11, and they were unsealed by court order Tuesday. A warrant was issued for Parker’s arrest on Tuesday morning, but she’s not yet in custody.

Parker, who resigned from her role after the shooting, is the first school official and second person charged in this case.

Deja Nicole Taylor, the mother of the 6-year-old shooter at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, is seen following her arraignment at Newport News Circuit Court on April 14, 2023.
Deja Nicole Taylor, the mother of the 6-year-old shooter at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.

Stephen M. Katz/Newport News Daily Press/Tribune News Service via Getty Images


In December 2023, Deja Taylor, the child’s mother, was sentenced to two years in prison for felony child neglect. The state sentence she received from Circuit Court Judge Christopher Papile was stiffer than what is called for in state sentencing guidelines and harsher than a joint sentencing recommendation of six months that prosecutors and Taylor’s lawyers had agreed to in a plea deal.

Taylor was also sentenced in November 2023 to 21 months in federal prison for using marijuana while owning a gun, which is illegal under U.S. law. The combination of her state and federal sentences amounts to a total punishment of nearly four years behind bars.

According to Zwerner’s lawsuit, the boy’s parents did not agree to put him in special education classes where he would be with other students with behavioral issues.

“There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed. Today’s announcement addresses but one of those failures,” Zwerner’s lawyer said after Taylor was indicted. “It has been three months of investigation and still so many unanswered questions remain. Our lawsuit makes clear that we believe the school division violated state law, and we are pursuing this in civil court. We will not allow school leaders to escape accountability for their role in this tragedy.”

The Newport News School Board, former Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck principal Briana Foster Newton and Parker are named as defendants. The superintendent was fired by the school board. 

Zwerner no longer works for the school system and is no longer teaching.

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