Group Of Covenant School Parents Moves To Keep Records Secret
Robin Wolfenden prays at a makeshift memorial for victims outside the Covenant School building at the Covenant
Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

The Covenant School in Nashville and a group of its parents will join with the local government in arguing that records related to the March shooting in which a woman who claimed to be transgender killed six at the school should not be released.

Judge I’Ashea Myles permitted the groups to “intervene” in a public records lawsuit, according to The Associated Press. That pits them against journalists and a Republican state senator who want the records, including a “manifesto,” to be released as the state considers legislative remedies to prevent further tragedies.

An attorney for the parents, Eric Osborne, argued that the parents are victims who have a constitutional right to be free from harassment. But attorney Nicholas Barry, who represents the Tennessee Star newspaper, said state laws around how victims are treated in the criminal system have no bearing on the Tennessee Public Records Act, according to the AP.

Attorney Robb Harvey, who represents two other plaintiffs, said the parents are not crime victims under the law and that their concerns are only speculative since they don’t know what’s contained in the records.

Metro Nashville Police Department Chief John Drake told Lee last month that he would release the records shortly before backtracking by citing the lawsuit over not releasing the records.

The school and Covenant Presbyterian Church said they fear that releasing some materials could put them at risk of another shooting, according to the Tennessean newspaper, which is also a party in the lawsuit seeking the records’ release.

The parents, who entered the lawsuit using pseudonyms, also feared the release of the records would “further traumatize” their children, the Tennessean reported.

On Wednesday, Nashville’s legal department said in legal filings that it is invoking five different exemptions to public records laws, including that “there is an ongoing criminal investigation into the case.”

The police department denied The Daily Wire’s public records request on similar grounds, even though the perpetrator is dead after she was killed by police at the scene.

Republican state Sen. Todd Gardenhire is a party to the lawsuit, arguing that the materials need to be released because the public must understand the facts of the shooting before the legislature can craft legislative remedies. Governor Bill Lee has called the body to reconvene for a special session in August that is expected to focus on gun laws.

The plaintiffs did not oppose the church and school’s limited motions, but opposed the group of parents’ motion, which went further, arguing that it will have a “chilling effect upon the exercise of fundamental First Amendment rights,” the Tennessean reported. The judge will consider arguments from the parties on June 8.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told the AP that under state law, legislators could access the records if a committee passes a resolution, but they have not done so. A spokeswoman for Lee told AP that the governor can also review the records under state law, but he has declined from doing so until police “provide clarity” on them for the public.

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