May 25, 2023 - News

School, church can weigh in on Covenant records debate

Photo: Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Nashville judge ruled Wednesday that Covenant School parents will have a say in the ongoing legal battle over the release of records tied to March's deadly shooting.

  • The school itself and the affiliated church will also be able to intervene.

Why it matters: The status of the records, which include the shooter's writings, has emerged as a potent issue in the aftermath of the shooting that killed three 9-year-olds and three school employees.

  • Republican state lawmakers have said they want to see the writings and police documents before they consider gun reforms and other policy responses.

State of play: Several parties have sued to get the records, including the Tennessean newspaper and GOP state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, arguing the records are public documents that could inform ongoing policy debates.

  • The lawsuits have been consolidated.
  • Metro police have declined to release the records, citing an ongoing criminal investigation. Metro Legal argued there are multiple other legal justifications to withhold the records.

Driving the news: Lawyers for the Covenant parents argued releasing the records would further traumatize their children. The Covenant School argued the documents might include information related to school security or personnel.

What she's saying: In orders granting the requests to intervene, Chancellor I'Ashea Myles said the parents, school and church have enough of a "personal stake in the outcome" of the lawsuits to justify their intervention.

  • She said the parents were qualified to act on behalf of their children, who police consider to be victims in their investigation.
  • Myles also cited The Covenant School's argument that their otherwise private information collected by police during the shooting investigation could become public if the lawsuits are successful.

What's next: More debate will take place before Myles makes a decision on the records. The next hearing in the case is currently set for June 8.

Meanwhile: Three Republicans in the Tennessee House asked Gov. Bill Lee to cancel a special session on gun reforms in August. The effort has not gained traction with party leaders, but it underscores the resistance to any gun control measures within the deeply conservative General Assembly.

  • Lee has released a plan that would allow courts to demand that people surrender their firearms if they are found to be a threat to themselves or others.

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