If you want to discourage teachers from entering the profession…

Here is the way. Abigail Zwerner is the first grade teacher who was shot by one of her students, and she is suing the school district for damages. The school’s lawyers have come up with an interesting defense.

The motion was filed last week by attorneys representing the School Board and argues that Zwerner, who was shot in her classroom at Richneck Elementary in January by a 6-year-old student, is only entitled to file a worker’s compensation claim because the injury she sustained from the shooting is a “workplace injury,” and that the shooting was a hazard of the job.

James Graves, the president of the Newport News teachers union, says that argument is “ridiculous.”

“This is not military, this is not the police department. This is an education system,” Graves said in an interview Wednesday.

In a Facebook statement posted Tuesday, Graves said, “These lawyers have started a significant hurricane in our district by saying that being shot is part of what teachers signed up for.”

If you’re a teacher, you should expect to be shot at now and then? What other professions in America should be taking gun violence for granted?

Lawyers, maybe? Maybe if some of these lawyers get shot, we should just shrug and say, “Well, that’s what their job entails, you know.”


  1. cheerfulcharlie says

    “The first thing we will do is kill all the lawyers”.
    – William Shakespear

  2. seversky says

    “Paragraph: If we are ever to have law and order in the West, the first thing we gotta do is take out all the lawyers and shoot ’em down like dogs.”

    — Major Rufus Cobb: Jesse James (1939

  3. seversky says

    Of course, if the NRA has its way there will be armed teachers in every school prepared to shoot down 6 year old armed students that come in to shoot the place up.

    And then the Christian Right can make movies about heroic teachers making a last stand against first-grader gangs starring Jim Caviezel.

  4. raven says

    Attacks on health care workers and medical facilities are common and getting more common.
    Any hospital or large medical clinic will have a lot of onsite security.

    The violence was increasing anyway, but it really jumped during the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

    The antivaxxers and Covid-19 virus deniers, which overlap a lot, would claim that the Covid-19 virus doesn’t exist or is just the flu and doesn’t make you very sick.
    Then, they would catch that nonexistent virus which doesn’t exist, doesn’t make you sick, but is a Chinese bioweapon made by Bill Gates and George Soros.
    And, many of them ended up in the hospital very sick since they didn’t come in until their infection was very serious.
    Then the crash, ICU, vent…dead.

    The surviving co-crackpots and relatives blame the hospital, the hospital protocols, remdesivir, and the Illuminati for killing their relative. And threaten the hospital and the hospital staff.

    Threats against health care workers are rising. Here’s how hospitals are protecting their staffs

    Thus began another assault against health care workers, whom the federal government reports are five times more likely to experience workplace violence than employees in all other industries.

    Workplace violence is highest in health care facilities.

    Man attacks O.C. vaccine clinic workers, calling them ‘ …

    Jan 4, 2022 — A man was arrested on suspicion of battery and resisting arrest after an attack on healthcare workers at a mobile vaccine clinic in Tustin.

    At least one Covid-19 vaccine provider was murdered in Georgia.

  5. Matthew Currie says

    Slight digression from an amateur bardolater here, but please remember that the “kill all the lawyers” line, played no doubt for laughs then as now, is uttered by the eerily Trumpish populist demagogue Jack Cade (in Henry VI). Though finding and exploiting true injustices and inequities in society, behind the rhetoric his real goal is not to correct an unjust social order but to destroy and replace it with a lawless tyranny in which he alone is both legislator and judge and greatest corrupt beneficiary, and, true to form, when things go wrong for him, he abandons his followers, declaring them the pathetic fools they always were.

    So sure, laugh along with the Globe’s groundlings as you quaff your ale, but please keep in mind how things actually go.

  6. raven says

    Bomb threat shuts down OHSU clinic after anti-trans information posted online

    By Jonathan Levinson (OPB)
    PORTLAND, Ore. Aug. 5, 2023 2:58 p.m.
    A bomb threat against Oregon Health & Science University is the latest in a string of attacks and harassment against health care facilities, spurred by far-right culture war issues and COVID conspiracies.

    The threat, called in Thursday, shut down OHSU’s Richmond Family Health Center throughout the day Friday. According to an email sent to members of the AFSCME union representing OHSU employees, the threat was in response to a story posted on a far-right, anti-trans website alleging a cancer patient had been dropped by the clinic over remarks she made about the LGBTQ+ community.

    Stewart said the threat came after patient Marlene Barbera became unhappy about a trans flag hanging in the reception area of the Richmond clinic, where she was receiving breast cancer treatment. Multiple far-right media websites shared Barbera’s statements, in which she alleged “gender to be a nonsense and sexed bodies to be a reality.” She said the “transgenderism banner” was hanging like a “Nazi flag behind the reception desk.”

    Just another day at the Family Medicine Clinic.
    It’s always nice to get a terrorist threat before your work day has even started.

    This woman didn’t just insult the staff at the clinic.
    She called them Nazis, made some threats, and demanded that they change their office decorations.
    They had had enough and promptly dropped her as a patient.

  7. kome says

    Is the link working for anyone? I click it and it just takes me back to whatever page I was on (front page if I click on it from the front page or this page if I click on it from here).

  8. robro says

    kome @ #11 — Not working for me either, but tytalus @ #10’s link takes you to a news story about it.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    cheerfulcharlie @1: Spoken by a character who killed people who could read, and burned books. I don’t think Will S approved of the sentiment.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Oops, missed Matthew Currie‘s #8. But it was Dick the Butcher (Cade’s pal), not Jack Cade.

  11. says

    Well, to be fair it’s the United States where being shot is a hazard of every job. And every non-work related activity. And stepping outside. And staying at home.

  12. antigone10 says

    COVID seems to have made people go nuts.

    I work in a library. There has always been the random person who’s violent. We work with public, the public includes people who are distressed, entitled, having a bad day, or are vicious. But I have never had as many people scream, swear, spit, and swing at me as when I told them they had to wear a mask or wait outside. Not everyone, not even most of them. But the number jumped WAY up.

    Many of my friends working public facing jobs- aviation, nursing, retail, food service- reported the same. So it’s all over the place.

  13. says

    If the district truly expects teachers to be victims of violence at work, up to and including attempted murder (if not murder, though it’s hard to see how they would draw THAT line), that sounds like perfect grounds for a teacher strike.

    Walk the fuck out until the district has decided that teachers being shot isn’t a normal job risk that they’re willing to tolerate.

  14. says

    The big scandal when I was in grade school was the girl who brought her parent’s mamajuana plant to school for show and tell. It was the 80s though and the Highschool kids could still bring their guns to school if they kept them in their cars.

  15. StevoR says

    @16.garydargan : “Well Trump is threatening lawyers and judges so it probably won’t be too long.”

    Yes – but before what? Trump incites violence (again) or before Trump gets the gloves off Contempt of Court full weight of law like tonne of bricks and anyone else would have had land on them ages ago that he deserves?

    Its long overdue that Trump was remanded in custody, his political career essentially ended and he stays behind bars with no special privileges until trail. Then afet when he’s convicte dand sentenced tolife and dying behind bars too. I’m hioping. It is lobng, lo-ooong , looooo-ong overdue.

  16. StevoR says

    Trump cannot say he hasn’t been warned – repeatedly – and ignored those warnings -repeatedly -and if he thinks he’s above the law -& he clearly does – then he has a nasty shock coming -or does he?

    Will the USA’s legal system and Justices and lawyers finally run out of patience and be forced to do the right bloody things that they should have done on january 7th or, indeed, far earlier – eventually soon?

  17. StevoR says

    @2. feralboy12 : “There is no “reasonable expectation” of safety, what with six-year-olds 2nd Amendment gun culture bullshit enabling rampant horrendous murders every fuckn day and all.”

    Fixed it for you?

  18. Nemo says

    On the one hand, no, of course they didn’t sign on for that. On the other hand, I kind of doubt that it’s the district’s fault, either. This seems like the usual case of choosing the target of a lawsuit based not on who’s most responsible, but on who has the most money.

    Of course, arguably both criteria would better fit the gun manufacturers, if they weren’t specially exempt from being sued.

  19. billseymour says

    About a decade or two ago, I can’t remember when, there were a couple of news stories about former Postal workers shooting up post offices.  There was even the phrase, “going Postal”, used to describe any shooting in a former workplace.

    I was a Postal worker for 31 years prior to retiring a bit over a year ago; and I can say that I never experienced anything even remotely like that.  The idea that teachers have “signed up” for the danger of being shot at is just absurd.

    And feralboy12 @2 beat me to it:

    There is no “reasonable expectation” of safety, what with six-year-olds and all.

  20. says

    On the one hand, lawyers who work in family law do have a reasonable expectation of at least being assaulted 2.7 times every ten years; it’s built into the higher premiums they pay for business insurance. (Admittedly, any lawyer who participates in weaponizing child custody disputes probably deserves at least a backhand to the face or three. Which is why I’ve never practiced family law.)

    On the other hand, a large part of the problem with “it’s workers’ comp” is to be laid not at the feet of the school district, or its lawyers, but the school district’s liability insurers. Who make the right-wing gun nuts look positively fluffy, caring, compassionate unicorns. The insurance company is directing the defense, not the school district/board. And on top of that, the really sad and disturbing thing is that the immediate-care needs of those hurt while at work — whether or not it’s “part of the job” — are usually better met through workers’ comp than through the tort-liability system. At least with workers’ comp, the liable party has the ability to pay; necessary medical costs are covered as of right without first determining fault, except if it’s the worker’s own negligence; and the award cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, like I thoroughly expect the six-year-old’s parents to do with their own responsibility… presuming, of course, that there isn’t another issue in the way like “psychiatric disability,” which has been at least hinted at in a couple of news pieces.

    So, as usual, it’s much more tangled than it looks. And there are bad actors who bear responsibility who aren’t even being mentioned.

  21. says

    I have a quick story related to that school incident. Here in Scarizona I sent an E-mail message to a neighbor, saying, sorry I was in a hurry and couldn’t talk to you when I saw you in the grocery store. He replied that it was a good thing because he was ‘packin’. Another neighbor told me about that guy bragging that he had 1,600 rounds that he’d just reloaded in his garage.
    And, I just read an article that the Teacher of the Year in Idaho got so many rtwingnut threats and so much harassment she is moving out of Idaho.
    I say, welcome to the ‘Dark Ages, but with Deadlier Weapons’ – these stories tell me civilized society is just about dead. I’m old enough I can’t run (you and me both PZ), let alone find a safe place to hide.
    Yes, I still hope for a full recovery SOON for PZ.

  22. says

    @2 feralboy12 said: There is no “reasonable expectation” of safety,
    I reply: gotta give credit where credit is due to feralboy12 and the other commenters with similar sentiments. I just wanted to reinforce the claim that ‘civilized society seems to be dying around us’. Well, not just dying, but, also, being killed off by threats and violence everywhere. See story of river boat co-captain trying to get his passengers on the dock where the boat was assigned to be and being beat up by a bunch of arrogant pontoon party boat Aholes who had taken that legitimate spot.

  23. Pierce R. Butler says

    Laws are, it seems, made to be redefined as convenient to the powerful, even laws about The Most Important Thing Ever:

    Texas questions rights of a fetus after a prison guard who had a stillborn baby sues

    DALLAS (AP) — The state of Texas is questioning the legal rights of an “unborn child” in arguing against a lawsuit brought by a prison guard who says she had a stillborn baby because prison officials refused to let her leave work for more than two hours after she began feeling intense pains similar to contractions.

    The argument from the Texas attorney general’s office appears to be in tension with positions it has previously taken in defending abortion restrictions, contending all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court that “unborn children” should be recognized as people with legal rights. …

  24. fishy says

    Strangely enough I cannot recall any shootings and death inside any of our halls of congress amongst legislators.
    It seems to happen everywhere else.

  25. whheydt says

    Re: raven @ #5…
    When my late wife was in a hospital in June last year, the emergency room entrance had a standard airport style metal detector one had to go through. The main hospital entrance did not.

  26. robro says

    fishy @ #30 — There have been fights during legislative sessions, and one death by stabbing in Arkansa (1837). There were quite a few brawls between Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress prior to the Civil War. There could be more violence if some of the Republican nut cases in Congress these days got their way to bring guns on the floor.

  27. John Morales says

    Abigail Zwerner is the first grade teacher who was shot by one of her students, and she is suing the school district for damages.

    For $40 million, according to the link. What?!

    Lost me there; why is the school being sued? It did not shoot her.

    (My mum used to have a saying: “ask me a stupid question, get a stupid answer”)

  28. robro says

    John Morales @ #33 — I think the article I read said she is sung the school district because the admin was told the child had a gun at school, but didn’t deal with it.

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @33:

    Lost me there; why is the school being sued? It did not shoot her.

    Is workplace safety not an issue in Oz?

  30. John Morales says

    robro, I haven’t delved, just looked at the link in the OP.

    Not sure if someone from the USA can see the problem here.
    The litigiousness of it all.

    Here’s the thing: one way or the others the lawyers will profit.
    Always do. :|

    The school district may end up some millions poorer and the teacher some millions richer. But the lawyers will at least not starve.

    As for discouraging teachers, well… they know they can sue for tens of millions of dollars if something happens to them at work. This is a fact.
    I can’t see how it’s somehow problematic that the sued entity can try to defend itself.

    In short, seems to me the very same climate and system that allows the teacher to sue according to the vagaries of the law equally allows the school to defend itself using that very same law.

  31. John Morales says


    Is workplace safety not an issue in Oz?

    What a weird question.

    It’s very important here in Oz.

    For example: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-03/qld-sikhs-allowed-to-carry-ceremonial-kirpan-at-school/102679354

    “Lawyer Claire Coles, who represented Ms Athwal, said the court had a difficult task “to balance the human rights of individuals to practice their religion and express their faith with the human rights of student and teacher safety”.”

    You might see it as a matter of workplace safety, I suppose.

    Did you notice that the OP has zero to say about the suit itself though suggests that the defence is somehow inappropriate.

    If the suit is about a workplace hazard, then a defence that it’s a workplace hazard seems reasonable; if it’s not about a workplace hazard, then how is the school district negligent?

  32. raven says

    I say, welcome to the ‘Dark Ages, but with Deadlier Weapons’ – these stories tell me civilized society is just about dead.

    It is certainly not doing well.

    My friend the ICU specialist was one of the many who had death threats from former patients families and not too long ago.
    One of her patients died, not unusual in the ICU, and the family blamed her and made some threats to her, that becoming more common these days.
    The hospital and she called the cops.

    They investigated and decided this was a credible threat.
    They didn’t arrest anyone though or take their guns away.

    What they did do is tell her to get a concealed and carry permit and buy a gun.
    It’s not quite as stupid as it sounds. It isn’t like they are going to provide her with a 24 hour body guard or anything.
    She’s had a lot of firearms training by now.

  33. wzrd1 says

    raven @ 38, Pennsylvania stiffened penalties for violence against health care workers in 2020.
    “Under the new law, the penalty for an assault against a healthcare practitioner in which there is bodily injury would be upgraded from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.”
    Just for the reason that you mentioned. Some of our hospitals also have law enforcement officers assigned to them and they remain armed.

    John Morales, do check Jaws comment @ 26. The insurance company is basically trying to duck paying out on her claim. Basically, trying a workman’s compensation claim, rather than liability coverage, since the administration did not exercise due care or due diligence when notified that the student had a firearm in his possession.
    No school resource officer or law enforcement was alerted to an armed student, they basically tried to ignore the whole thing until the teacher got shot in the chest.
    As someone who has sat on a jury a few times, suffice it to say, a jury will tend to be quite sympathetic to the teacher and decidedly not welcoming such a defense.

  34. says

    Raven @38
    “What they did do is tell her to get a concealed and carry permit and buy a gun.”
    First off, the police would never actually tell anyone that.
    Second, “moar gunz” is never a viable solution.
    The police need to DO THEIR GODDAMN JOBS and arrest these terrorist fucks and take their fucking guns away.

  35. John Morales says


    John Morales, do check Jaws comment @ 26.

    I read every comment before adding to the stream, odd exceptions aside.
    No exception this time.

    As someone who has sat on a jury a few times, suffice it to say, a jury will tend to be quite sympathetic to the teacher and decidedly not welcoming such a defense.

    I have not sat on any juries ever, nor do I particularly have an opinion regarding the tendency of juries.

    Point being, the OP claims that the strategy used by the school district’s lawyers defending the claim over this incident will discourage teachers from entering the profession. I’m not seeing that, other than by assertion. I’m seeing $$$.

  36. John Morales says

    From Jaws’ comment, what I found most salient:

    And on top of that, the really sad and disturbing thing is that the immediate-care needs of those hurt while at work — whether or not it’s “part of the job” — are usually better met through workers’ comp than through the tort-liability system.

    That’s quite informative, and I give it credence.


  37. brightmoon says

    If the school admin was informed of a gun toting child and did nothing about it, then they ( the school district) deserved to be sued . That should have gotten an immediate response as children are immature and tend to be irresponsible

  38. says

    @40 WMDKitty — Survivor said: The police need to DO THEIR GODDAMN JOBS and arrest these terrorist fucks and take their fucking guns away.
    I reply: I fully agree. But, there is a huge loophole in demanding that:
    https://www.alternet.org › 2022 › 06 › supreme-court-cops-protect-individuals
    Jun 3, 2022 According to the Supreme Court, no. Cops don’t have to do their jobs to protect people..
    All the many points made here, as well as recent events, reinforce what I say: “Society has become mostly a failed experiment.” Welcome to The New Dark Ages, piled on top of the Apocalypse.

  39. raven says

    Here is an example of the cops doing their DAMN JOBS.

    Provo man killed in FBI raid suspected of threatening Biden ahead of Utah visit

    “I hear Biden is coming to Utah. Digging out my old ghillie suit and cleaning the dust off the M24 sniper rifle,” the post said, according to the complaint, which referred to the post as a “willful true threat to kill or cause injury to kill President Biden.”

    Robertson was facing three counts, according to the complaint — interstate threats, threats against the president, and influencing, impeding and retaliating against federal law enforcement officers by threat

    This was a threat made on the Trump site, TruthSocial.

    This guy also threatened to shoot it out with the FBI.
    He in fact, did shoot it out with the FBI.
    He fired first, 6 shots from an AR-15.
    This is terrorism, from yet again another violent Mormon terrorist.

    His family and neighbors all describe him as kind, gentle and generous.
    Per fox news 13, a neighbor said:
    “He’s an amazing guy. He was strong in the church, just a very… loving guy.”

    He was nice to you if you were a member of the Mormon tribe and a right wingnut.

  40. says

    Hm. She should be going after the parents of the little boy who shot her, because they are the ones responsible. She’s going after the school because that’s where the money is, and the students are going to pay for it with reduced quality and quantity of education and services.

  41. Ada Christine says

    We can argue until we’re dead about who exactly is liable for this child getting access to a gun. We can cynically proclaim that this is a money grab or whatever fucking argument makes you feel better about yourself and your values in this whole disgusting mess. We can do anything at all but can we please, please not gloss over the fact that the school had a reason to believe there was an immediate safety risk and failed to act? The forest and the trees are one in the same.

  42. erik333 says

    Surely the school would be expected to call the Police, if a minor is armed? Presumably minors can’t have a carry permit?

  43. says

    #1 If you’re going to quote Shakespeare/Shakesspere/Shakysper/Shaxpeer/Schakespeire/Shackper/Shaxkspere/Shakspeyre, you could at least make the effort to get it right:

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

    Said by Dick the Butcher, not exactly an exemplar; he was a violent anti-intellectual thug. Killing all the lawyers is a great way to eliminate the whole idea of rights of the people.

  44. says

    On the other hand, I kind of doubt that it’s the district’s fault, either. This seems like the usual case of choosing the target of a lawsuit based not on who’s most responsible, but on who has the most money.

    I kind of doubt that you have read the lawsuit but rather are just a typical intellectually dishonest dipshit who assumes that the worms in your brain are facts.

    At the very least, the school board can be faulted for the nature of their defense.