Aug 29, 2023 - News

Covenant parents put pressure on Tennessee lawmakers

Covenant School parents hold signs from the House chamber gallery during a special session at the Tennessee State Capitol. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Covenant School parents, who have emerged as impassioned advocates during the special session on public safety, vented their frustrations over the impasse between the House and Senate.

Why it matters: At a news conference Monday, parents of children who survived The Covenant School shooting signaled they would organize against lawmakers who don't take up key measures parent groups have pursued.

What's happening: Senators have only approved four bills so far. House members continue to debate and vote on additional bills and have criticized senators for tabling most of the proposals.

What they're saying: "Set your differences aside and do your jobs," Covenant parent Becky Hansen said during the news conference. "We will remember who stood up for their constituents and not their own self-interests when it's time to vote and when it's time to primary."

  • "If we are forced to continue bearing witness to this childish stalemate, we also will call on our fellow Tennesseans to remember the egregious lack of leadership and vote accordingly next year."

Zoom in: The parent group has endorsed bills the Senate has tabled for now, including one that would require schools to update emergency procedures, one that would aim to expand mental health offerings at schools and another that would block some child autopsies from the public.

State of play: While the parents focused their comments on the Senate's inaction, they also referenced problems with the House, where Republican leaders tried to ban signs during the special session.

  • "Our elected representatives are governing out of fear: Fear of not being reelected, fear of being criticized, fear of this sign," David Teague said, holding up a handheld sign.
  • "By their inaction, they sure as hell don't understand the fears that our children felt on March 27 or the fear that every parent feels in a state where gun violence is the leading cause of death amongst our children."

The parents also said they opposed some of the legislation the House was advancing.

  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) wants to toughen juvenile sentencing laws during the special session.

The latest: The Senate didn't budge Monday, wrapping up a brief floor session without taking up additional legislation.

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