A lawsuit regarding the release of records related to a school shooting in Nashville was argued in a Tennessee courtroom on Monday. The lawsuit involves the families of the victims who are seeking to control the public disclosure of information about the massacre. The shooting, which occurred at a private Christian elementary school, resulted in the deaths of three 9-year-old children and three adults. The perpetrator, who was killed by police, left behind numerous journals, a suicide note, and a memoir.
The debate centers around whether the writings and other records should be made public. A coalition consisting of news organizations, a state senator, and a gun-rights group requested the police records through the Tennessee Public Records Act earlier this year. However, the Metro Nashville Police Department declined the request, leading to the lawsuit.
The Metro government attorneys argue that the records can be released once the investigation is officially closed, which may take several months. The coalition seeking the documents contends that since the only suspect is deceased, the records should be immediately released. However, the focus of the arguments has shifted to the rights of the victims and the legitimacy of the parties involved in the public records case.
In May, Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles ruled that over 100 families from the Covenant School could intervene in the case to prevent the release of the police records. The families, along with the Covenant School and the Covenant Presbyterian Church, argue that the release of the documents would further harm the psychological well-being of the children affected by the shooting.
During the court hearing, attorney Eric Osborne, representing the families, emphasized that the children and their parents have the greatest interest in the case. Declarations from the families and a report from an expert on childhood trauma were submitted as evidence to support their argument.
On the other hand, attorney Paul Krog, representing one of the news organizations seeking the records, argued that the case should be decided based on the statute rather than policy arguments. He pointed out that the Tennessee Public Records Act allows any resident to request records held by government agencies, and if there are no exceptions, the agency is required to release them.
The case is further complicated by the fact that the shooter identified as a transgender man. U.S. Senator Josh Hawley has promoted a theory that the shooting was a hate crime against Christians. The refusal to release the shooter’s writings has led to speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding their contents.
The state Appeals Court panel heard arguments on whether Judge Myles acted within the law by allowing the families, the school, and the church to intervene in the case.