A Virginia school board has voted to remove its district superintendent weeks after a six-year-old pupil shot a teacher during class. The Newport News School Board voted five-to-one to oust George Parker III on Wednesday. The board gave approval to a separation agreement in which he will be paid over $502,000 in severance, that is, two years of his current base salary of $251,000, Sky News reported.
“It is important that we state that this decision was made without cause,” Board Chair Lisa Surles-Law said following the vote. According to her, Parker was “a capable division leader who has served Newport News for nearly five years through some extremely challenging circumstances. This decision is based on the future trajectory and needs of our school division.”
Gary Hunter, a school board member, does not support Parker’s removal. He said bringing in a new person will not solve the problem. “This problem is not a Newport News problem,” he said. “The big elephant in the room is the gun.”
On January 6, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner was shot by a 6-year-old student while teaching at Richneck Elementary School. The boy had a handgun that belonged to his mother. Lawyers for the boy’s family said in a statement that the boy’s mother legally purchased the gun and it was in her closet on a shelf up high in the family home. It also had a trigger lock that required a key.
The lawyers also said that the boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan “that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.” A week before the shooting was the first time a parent was not with him in class, the statement said.
Zwerner, who survived the shooting, has dragged the school district to court. Her attorney, Diane Toscano, said that on the day of the shooting, employees and concerned teachers warned administrators three times that the boy had a gun on him and was threatening other students, “but the administration could not be bothered.”
The shooting happened after an altercation between Zwerner and the student. The boy was placed under temporary detention order and was evaluated at a local hospital, the police said. The shooting was the first this year at a U.S. school, a CNN report said. There were 60 shootings at K-12 schools in 2022, the report added.
The boy’s mother could face charges in the shooting. CNN explained that “under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way that it could endanger a child under the age of 14. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.”