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  • Writer's pictureVolume 82 Magazine

Virginia Mother Sentenced to Prison After Her Son Shot His First Grade Teacher

Abigail Zwerner. Photo/GoFundMe

Deja Taylor, the mother of a six-year-old student who shot his first-grade teacher, Abigail Zwerner, in the chest and hand in January 2023, has been sentenced to prison. According to CNN, Deja pleaded guilty to felony child neglect in August after her son took her gun to school and shot his teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. Deja was sentenced to two years in prison. The mother of the first-grade child will also serve 21 months for two federal felony charges, the unlawful use of a controlled substance while possessing a firearm and making a false statement while purchasing the firearm, according to CNN

The student's mother wants people to understand she's a good mom. According to ABC News, Taylor said, "I am willing to take responsibility. She told ABC that her now 7-year-old son does not talk about the incident. The Taylor family released a statement upon the incident, explaining the following details: "Our son suffers from an acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day. The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him." Taylor explained to ABC that her son has ADHD, she said, "he's off the wall, doesn't sit still ever!" Taylor said her son liked his teacher, but during the first week at school without his parents, he told her he felt Zwerner was ignoring him and brushing him off in class. The mother also said during the same week, her then 6-year-old son was suspended for an incident with Zwerner (which she felt was a misunderstanding).

Zwerner gave her account of what happened the day of the shooting and read the following statement in court, "The boy pointed the gun directly at me and shot. The single bullet went through my left hand and lodged into my upper left chest, leaving traces of bullet fragments in both areas that will remain forever," Zwerner said. "When this happened and emergency responders worked to keep me alive, I was not sure whether it would be my final moment on earth."

Zwerner also reportedly filed a $40 million lawsuit alleging Newport News Public Schools and administrators ignored warning signs and were aware of the student's "history of random violence, according to CNN." The school board moved to dismiss the suit, but a judge earlier this month ruled it can move forward. The teacher has reportedly had five surgeries and ongoing physical therapy due to losing movement in her hand. She cites stress and rising debt from medical bills as another reason for the lawsuit. Zwerner said the shooting has taken a tremendous toll on her life, "I lost myself following the shooting. I could barely communicate with my friends and family. This permanent damage should never have been allowed to happen to me and would not have happened if not for the defendant's actions or lack thereof."

It's unclear if Zwerner will return to a career in education. However, according to NBC, the school board's attorneys feel that her injuries were job related and she should only receive workers' compensation; the board stated, "Zwerner's injuries were directly related to her job and therefore covered under workers' compensation. A tentative trial date for Zwerner's lawsuit is scheduled for January 2025.

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