RICHMOND, V.A. (WAVY) – The former principal of Richneck Elementary School, where a 6-year-old is accused of shooting his teacher on Jan. 6, says she was not made aware of teachers’ concerns that the student had brought a weapon to school that day, her lawyer states.
Briana Foster-Newton claims she was not part of the “unidentified school administrators” being reported to have been aware of the 6-year-old suspect having brought a gun to school on the day of the shooting, according to Attorney Pamela Johnson Branch.
“This is far from the truth,” Branch said at a Thursday press conference, claiming that those who were aware of the student bringing the gun to school did not report it to Foster-Newton.
Branch’s remarks come a week after a lawyer for the victim claimed teachers at Richneck warned administrators three times that the child may have had a gun.
During the press conference, Branch confirmed that Foster-Newton is still employed with Newport News Public Schools, but is still waiting to be officially reassigned.
Branch added that Foster-Newton has been receiving threatening voicemails wishing her ill, and claimed that her client has been the subject of misinformed posts on social media.
Thursday’s press conference marked the first public statement from Foster-Newton since the 6-year-old student shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, on Jan. 6.
Zwerner has since announced a lawsuit against Newport News Public Schools.
Zwerner’s lawyer, Diane Toscano, claimed that Zwerner and other teachers at Richneck “tried to do the right thing on the day of the shooting.” Over the course of the day, Toscano says school administration was warned three times by teachers and employees that the 6-year-old may have brought a gun to school.
Foster-Newton, who was overseeing the school as of the 2022-2023 school year, was named the school’s principal in July 2022 per the school’s social media pages and is still employed by the district. This was her first year as principal at Richneck. She had been an educator for 11 years prior to becoming principal.
She had worked with Newport News Public Schools for the last six years as an assistant principal at the Discovery STEM Academy.
“She [Foster-Newton] will always want what’s best for the students, staff, and administrators at Richneck Elementary School and wishes its new leadership a safe, positive, and productive remainder of the year,” said Branch. “It’s very easy to demonize people you don’t know when in the midst of an obviously upsetting and traumatic situation for everyone such as what happened on January 6.”
During a town hall held in January for Richneck families, former Superintendent Dr. George Parker said Karen Lynch, the NNPS Extended Learning supervisor and a former elementary school principal, would be “leading training and preparation activities for Richneck staff moving forward.”
Richneck Elementary School students returned to class Monday. They were met with metal detectors, provided with clear backpacks, and given access to therapy dogs.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew told Nexstar’s WAVY that the school will continue to be without a school resource officer because the police department does not have the resources to staff SROs at the elementary school level.