A debate has arisen in Newport News, Virginia, over the compensation of a teacher who was shot by her 6-year-old student. Abby Zwerner, a former first-grade teacher, is suing the public schools for $40 million, claiming that the school system failed to protect her. Zwerner’s lawyers are expected to argue for the lawsuit to proceed with allegations of gross negligence against school administrators. On the other hand, the school board will argue for workers’ compensation, which provides financial support and medical care for Zwerner’s injuries.
Under Virginia’s strict workers’ compensation law, Zwerner faces a challenging legal battle. Her lawyers must prove that the shooting was unrelated to her job, despite the incident occurring in her classroom. The school board argues that the shooting was work-related since Zwerner was exposed to the alleged negligence due to her employment at the school.
Zwerner’s lawsuit alleges that school officials ignored multiple warnings about the student’s possession of a gun and violent behavior. The boy intentionally shot Zwerner, who suffered serious physical injuries and required hospitalization and multiple surgeries.
The school board contends that the shooting cannot be considered personal because 6-year-olds lack the capacity to form intent according to Virginia law. They also highlight that the boy had been suspended for breaking Zwerner’s cellphone before the shooting, implying a connection between the suspension and the incident.
Legal experts in Virginia anticipate that Zwerner’s lawsuit may face significant challenges. If the lawsuit proceeds, the school board is likely to appeal due to the extensive coverage of the state’s workers’ compensation act.
While workplace violence is tragically common, the shooting involving a 6-year-old assailant is an exceptional case. Zwerner’s lawyers argue that workers’ compensation does not apply since being shot was not an actual risk of her job as a first-grade teacher.