Tag Archives: Newport News

IEPs Are Not a License for Violent Behavior at School

by Kerry Dougherty

It may be time to rethink the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was signed into law in 1990 by then-President George H. W. Bush.

If the late president had known that some school officials would use a wrinkle in this law to keep psychopaths in the classroom I wonder if he would have signed it.

IDEA entitled students to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. It meant kids with physical, mental and emotional disabilities could get individualized learning plans and ideally have an education tailored to their needs.

It’s a well-intended piece of legislation built on several earlier laws that also attempted to give those with disabilities the same opportunities as other children for a free public education. It appears that IDEA may have been expanded to mean that a child with an IEP has a license to be disruptive and even violent while teachers are powerless to get them out of class. If that’s the case, well, it’s time to narrow the law.

Or scrap it. Continue reading

Three Warnings? You’re Out of a Job.

by Kerry Dougherty

Unbelievable. If what Abby Zwerner’s lawyer said yesterday in her press conference is true, it wasn’t enough to sack only the superintendent of Newport News Public Schools over the near-fatal shooting of a first-grade teacher by an armed 6-year-old. A host of other indifferent school administrators need to join him in the unemployment ranks.

Oh, and they all need to buckle up for legal proceedings that could blow the roof off that dysfunctional school system.

Here, watch for yourself. I’ll wait:

Diane Toscano is not an ambulance-chasing lawyer. She’s a well-respected, experienced Virginia Beach attorney who once worked as a prosecutor. She just notified Newport News of her intention to sue on behalf of the wounded teacher, which may be part of the reason the school board decided yesterday to fire George Parker, the city’s school superintendent.

Toscano knows the law and seems confident that the chronic apathy that infected administrators at Richneck Elementary School will be enough to take this case out of the Workman’s Compensation meager coverage and open the schools to full liability for Zwerner’s injuries. Continue reading

Newport News School Chief About To Be Sacked

by Kerry Dougherty

As I wrote this I debated whether or not to put a question mark at the end of my headline. Newport News School Chief About To Be Sacked?

I decided against it.

News reports seem certain that the Newport News School Board will vote tonight to fire School Superintendent George Parker for his cumulative failure to prevent three shootings on school property in 18 months.

The latest and most horrific, of course, was the shooting of first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner by one of her 6-year-old students on January 6.

“The Newport News School Board will vote Wednesday evening on the firing of superintendent George Parker and appointing an interim in his place,” reports The Daily Press.

“The special board meeting was announced Tuesday, and follows a series of closed meeting discussions the board has held in the past two weeks…

“Parker has faced a barrage of criticism since the Jan. 6 shooting of first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner. The shooting is the third on school property in 18 months, following the 2021 shootings at Heritage and Menchville high schools.
Teachers, parents and community members have blamed the administration for failing to properly handle “out of control” student behavior, and have called for Parker’s removal. Dozens of teachers and parents spoke at last week’s board meeting to express their anger, and others have sent letters to school board members.”

Complaints about the superintendent concentrate largely on a widespread lack of support for teachers by administrators as they try to deal with discipline problems in their classrooms. The Washington Post reported last weekend that the child accused of shooting his teacher had been the subject of numerous behavioral complaints. He allegedly terrorized his classmates by throwing furniture and had frightened another teacher by telling her he wanted to set her on fire and watch her die.

Yet there he was, still in class, in January.

What does it take to be booted from classrooms in Newport News? Continue reading

6-Year-Old Shooter

by Kerry Dougherty

We’re not in the business of making predictions in this space. But with the police releasing precious few details about the near-fatal shooting of a Newport News first-grade school teacher on Friday, BY A SIX-YEAR-OLD BOY, we have a few guesses about what we will learn eventually:

This is complete speculation, but chances that this first-grade boy is the product of a stable two-parent family are slim.

Chances are he has witnessed violence, either through video games or in person, that have sadly turned him into a menace to society.

Given the tender age of the alleged perpetrator, cops are being stingy with details. Understandable. Yet the entire student body of 550 at Richneck Elementary School was terrified Friday afternoon when shots rang out. They, and the rest of the community, deserve some answers.

For instance: Where is the boy now?

Six-year-olds reportedly cannot be charged with crimes in Virginia, but they can be removed from their homes by authorities. Hopefully that happened immediately.

The question remains: What sort of home produces a 6-year-old child capable of taking a loaded gun to school and shooting his teacher?

At the very least his parent/parents/guardian should be charged with child endangerment for giving him access to a loaded firearm. And let’s hope prosecutors spent every waking minute since the shooting exploring ways to charge the adults with attempted murder and a host of gun charges. Continue reading