Covenant School Shooting in Nashville: What To Know & How To Help

By Sarah Tate

March 27, 2023

Photo: Getty Images

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Seven people are dead following a mass shooting at a private school in Nashville on Monday (March 27), including the shooter.

Three children and three adult staff members were killed at The Covenant School, a private Christian school for pre-school to 6th grade, in Green Hills Monday morning when a shooter entered the school through a side door shortly after 10 a.m. and fired multiple shots as they made their way to the second floor, per WKRN.

Metro Nashville Police said two officers entered the building and ran toward the shooter, whom they identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, before fatally shooting them. The shooter was reportedly armed with a handgun and two assault-style rifles.

Three children suffering gunshot wounds were taken to Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt but died from their injuries. Three staff members were also taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center but also died from their injuries.

The victims have since been identified as 9-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9-year-old William Kinney, 9-year-old Hallie Scruggs, 61-year-old Cynthia Peak, 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, and 61-year-old Mike Hill.

According to police, Hale, who previously attended the school at one time, planned the attack in advance with maps and surveillance and carried out the shooting armed with two AR-style rifles and a handgun. Officials are investigating writings they left behind in order to determine a motive, with MNPD Chief John Drake telling NBC News that "whoever she came in contact with, she fired rounds" and that the shooter had planned to attack other targets after school.

Hale also reportedly sent an ominous message to a childhood friend mere moments before the shooting. Averianna Patton told CNN that even though the pair hadn't spoken in years, Hale sent her messages on Instagram shortly before 10 a.m. indicating that the shooter planned to die.

"One day this will make more sense," Hale allegedly wrote. "I've left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen."

Patton was disturbed by the messages and contacted a suicide prevention line as well as the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff's Office within minutes of receiving them, but Hale was already inside the school at that time.


State and local leaders reacted to news of Monday's tragic shooting, from Gov. Bill Lee praising law enforcement and urging the community to pray for the school to Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Dr. Adrienne Battle grieving for the families affected by the shooting.

Mayor John Cooper shared his thoughts on the shooting on Twitter, writing, "In a tragic morning, Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. Our entire city stands with you."

MNPS Director Dr. Adrienne Battle issued a statement of support for the community and an affirmation of safety protocols and student support services following the tragedy.

"As a parent, as an educator, as a human being, I'm grieving today over the tragic murder of children and school staff right here in our community," said Battle. "My heart goes out to the entire Covenant School community and the parents grieving the unimaginable loss of life today. ... This is a traumatic event for the entire community, and our student support services team will be working to help our students and staff process this situation in the days to come."

House Speaker Cameron Sexton said in a tweet "no harm should ever come to any child," adding, "At some point today, please take a moment to pray for the families impacted by this tragedy."

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, who represents Nashville, called the news "absolutely devastating" and "every parent's worst nightmare," while Sen. Jeff Yarbro, also of Nashville, urged political leaders to react to the tragedy with change.

"Let's pray politicians with power to do something about school shootings will find the courage to act," said Yarbro. "Let's pray the anger we feel is transformed into demanding better. Let's pray the compassion we have for the families & teachers doesn't give way to cynicism or giving up."

What Happens Next?

In the event of a tragedy such as this, many students, especially young children, might have questions that parents may find hard to answer.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic until around 8 years old, but it depends on the child and if they are directly impacted by the news, per Today. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, on the other hand, advises that avoiding discussion about the shooting could increase fear and make it more threatening in the child's mind. While you should be open to talking to your child about the shooting, limit their exposure to media depicting images or sounds of the tragedy, even if it's simply a TV or radio talking about the news, as it could be upsetting.

Additionally, encourage your child to ask questions and be direct in your response. Listen to what your child knows and gently correct inaccurate information with age-appropriate language.

If you do talk to your child about a tragic event, parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa suggests processing your own reaction before addressing it with a child.

"First, you have to process your own emotional response. What you do will affect them more than what you say," said Gilboa. "Have your first reaction away from your child."

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