VA School Shooting Accountability?

School shooting response at Richneck Elementary School
Photo Credit: Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot, via Associated Press

The Richneck Elementary School shooting involved the –thankfully non-fatal– Jan 6 shooting of teacher Abigail Zwerner by her 6y/o student. This bizarre tragedy was a shock even with limited initial details that always accompany early accounts of such incidents. The extreme youth of the shooter makes this a marked outlier among the already rare and difficult to understand issue of school shootings, but the more one learns about this event, the more absurd it becomes. So the latest news of the Principal “leaving” the school, while remaining employed by the district may not be a shock –as it follows the resignation or removal of the Assistant Principal, and school superintendent– but the announcement of a lawsuit filed by the injured teacher, and the reason for that lawsuit certainly could qualify, but first some details.

The student involved in the school shooting was described by family as “acutely disabled” and had a resultant care plan that involved a parent attending class with them. The family also described the gun in question as legally purchased, and stored on a shelf with a trigger lock. The day of the shooting was reportedly the first week since the implementation of the care plan in which a parent was not present with the student, but neither this nor the status of the gun used in the shooting are the subject of Zwerner’s lawsuit: inaction on the part of school administrators is instead the focus.

So how did the administration fail so badly as to warrant a lawsuit by the one victim of this school shooting? Catastrophically, it appears: Four times on Jan 6, alarms were raised about the possibility of violence on campus by three separate faculty. Between 11:15AM, and the shooting at 2:00PM, administrators were informed that the same student had:
-Threatened to beat up another student
-Had their bag searched for a gun
-Told a student at recess that they were in possession of a gun and would shoot them if they told anyone
A fourth school employee requested to search the student, but was told the the day was almost over, and to “wait the situation out because the school day was almost over.

As more details come to light, this school shooting seems to be less of a random tragedy, and more of a complete mishandling of reports of a student with a gun leading to a decidedly preventable outcome that has spurred only reactionary action. Richneck Elementary students will return to class with clear backpacks, metal detectors, and two additional school security officers. While these efforts aren’t unwelcome, they are only being implemented because those responsible for keeping their students and employees safe allowed their inaction to precipitate a school shooting that never had to happen.

Lars Smith
Lars is one of Gat's Wordmancers, having come to the company after years of experience in biology, agriculture, management, marketing, and writing. He found the gun community through prepping, and after realizing where he was on the Dunning-Kruger scale, jumped into the self-defense community with both feet. Since then, the 80 hours of professional firearms instruction he's taken has only made him hungry for more.