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Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old: ‘I try to stay positive’

Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary
Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File
FILE – Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 30, 2023. The Virginia teacher who was shot and wounded by her 6-year-old student at the school said on March 20 that she has had four surgeries and has gone through a challenging recovery.

The Virginia teacher who was shot in January by a 6-year-old student said she is trying to remain “positive” in the aftermath of the incident. 

Abigail Zwerner told the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie in an interview that aired Tuesday that she has faced challenges in her recovery and “some days are better than others.” 

“But, you know, for going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive,” she said. “You know, try to have a positive outlook on what’s happened and where my future’s heading.” 

Police determined earlier this month that the 6-year-old would not face charges after he allegedly shot Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., in the hand and chest. Zwerner was hospitalized for two weeks before being released and is continuing to physically recover. 

Zwerner said she raised her left hand in front of her after the student took out the gun but before he fired, which likely saved her. 

“It could’ve been fatal,” she said. “We believe — with my hand being up, with it going through my hand first — we believe that, by the bullet going through the hand first, that it most likely saved my life.” 

She said her initial reaction after being shot was that the classroom was no longer safe for the rest of her students, and she needed to get them out of the room. She said the students were “screaming” after the firearm went off but were “extremely frightened.” 

Zwerner took the children out of the room and then went to seek help. She said her lung had collapsed, and she started having trouble breathing and seeing. She lost consciousness when she reached the office. 

“I thought I had died,” she said. 

Howard Gwynn, Newport News Commonwealth’s attorney, has said his office was considering charging other people involved in the incident. 

The school system has faced backlash in the aftermath of the incident after multiple teachers said they warned administrators about the student in advance, but the warnings were ignored. 

The student’s family has said he has an “acute disability,” and a parent usually came with him to class, but one was not present on the day of the shooting.

Tags Abigail Zwerner

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