School Climate & Safety

What We Know About the Nashville School Shooting Victims

By Libby Stanford & Caitlynn Peetz — March 28, 2023 | Updated: March 28, 2023 4 min read
A woman and child bring flowers to lay at the entry to Covenant School which has becomes a memorial for shooting victims, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
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Updated: This story has been updated with more information about the victims of the Covenant School shooting.

The six victims of the mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., included three 9-year-old students, a school leader, a substitute teacher, and a custodian.

The Nashville community is mourning their loss after a 28-year-old former student opened fire at the private Christian elementary school Monday. The attacker was later killed by police, officials said.

In the wake of the shooting, family members, community leaders, and local news outlets have shared details about the six victims—Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9; Hallie Scruggs, 9; William Kinney, 9; Katherine Koonce, 60; Cynthia Peak, 61; and Mike Hill, 61. They were beloved children, brothers, and sisters; valued staff members; and faithful members of a church community.

The school teaches students in pre-kindergarten through 6th grade and focuses on providing them with strong leadership skills and values, according to its website.

“The beauty of a PreSchool-6th school is in its simplicity and innocence,” the school’s website says. “Students are free to be children—they can feel fully and safely known by our faculty and become leaders under their guidance.”

The simplicity and innocence were shattered by the attack on the school. In a statement shortly after the shooting, school leaders wrote that the “community is heartbroken.”

“We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church,” the statement said. “We are focused on loving our students, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing.”

The attack is the 13th school shooting since the beginning of 2023 and the 157th school shooting since 2018, when Education Week began tracking the tragic incidents. It’s also the deadliest shooting at a K-12 school since May 2022, when a former student killed 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

Here’s what we know so far about the six victims.

Katherine Koonce was the headmaster of the Covenant School.

Katherine Koonce

“At the Covenant School, we are about more than simply educating our students—we are participating in the miracle of their development and seeing them transform into who they will be,” she wrote in a welcome letter on the school’s website.

Her friends described her as smart, loving, and a rare female leader within a male-led religious culture, according to the Associated Press.

“If there was any trouble in that school, she would run to it, not from it,” Jackie Bailey, one of Koonce’s friends, told the Associated Press. “She was trying to protect those kids … That’s just what I believe.”

Koonce had worked at The Covenant School for nearly seven years. Prior to accepting that position, she was the academic dean at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, where she worked for over 15 years, according to her LinkedIn profile.

She attended Vanderbilt University and received a master’s degree in education from Georgia State University and an educational doctorate in research and professional practice from Trevecca Nazarene University.

Those who knew her described Koonce as a devoted school leader who “knew every student by name” and “did everything to help” families when they were in need, according to the BBC.

“She was an absolute dynamo and one of the smartest women I’ll ever know,” Anna Caudill, a former art teacher at the school, said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Evelyn Dieckhaus was a 3rd grader at The Covenant School, according to reporting by the Tennessean.

During a Monday night vigil to honor the victims, Evelyn’s older sister cried and said, “I don’t want to be an only child,” according to the Tennessean.

Hallie Scruggs was a 9-year-old student at The Covenant School. She was also the daughter of Chad Scruggs, the senior pastor at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, which oversees the school.

“We love the Scruggs family and mourn with them over their precious daughter Hallie,” Mark Davis, senior pastor of the Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, where Chad Scruggs used to work as associate pastor, said in a statement. “Together, we trust in the power of Christ to draw near and give us the comfort and hope we desperately need.”

Mike Hill was a custodian at The Covenant School.

Hill went by “Big Mike” and was a father of eight, according to a GoFundMe created to help raise money for funeral expenses. His daughter, Brittany Hill, said that he died doing “a job that everyone knows he absolutely loved,” in a Facebook post Monday night.

“I have watched school shootings happen over the years and never thought I would lose a loved one over a person trying to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution,” Brittany wrote.

William Kinney was a 9-year-old student at the school.

He was “unfailingly kind, gentle when the situation called for it, quick to laugh, and always inclusive of others,” a family friend, Rachael Freitas, wrote in a GoFundMe campaign created Tuesday that has since been closed, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

Cynthia Peak was a substitute teacher at The Covenant School.

She was originally from Leesville, Louisiana, according to KALB, a news station based out of Alexandria, Louisiana. She is survived by her husband, a daughter, and two sons, the station reported.

Chuck Owen, one of Peak’s lifelong friends, told the Associated Press that she was a “loving, caring, and attentive person” and a devout Christian. She helped Owen while he was grieving his sister’s death, he said.

“Cindy got here as quick as anybody else,” Owen said in an interview with the Associated Press. “She got here very, very quickly to grieve my sister with the rest of us. It’s a small community, a small tight knit group. She was ever present in my sister’s life and she’s been very attentive to my family since my sister passed away.”

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