Columbia D.A. Dropped Charges Against Civilian with PTSD For Showing Up To School with an AR-15 – Did Police Ask Him to Be There?

Video of Roy Brooks, a former firefighter with a history of PTSD, on campus with Columbia police pointing his weapon at people – and an account by the principal – bring up more disturbing questions about Columbia PD’s response to an active shooter hoax last year, and seem to back up his attorney’s claim that they asked him to join them.

In August of 2023, Roy Brooks, a former firefighter in Columbia, Tennessee, was indicted by a Maury County grand jury on a charge of carrying a weapon on school property during a response to an active shooter call that turned out to be a hoax – despite Brooks not being a law enforcement officer, and having no official capacity with any response team.

In May of 2023, Brooks had reportedly responded in full tactical gear and carrying an AR-15 rifle to the scene when a call of an active shooter at Columbia Central High School came in. The call turned out to be a hoax. Charges were brought against Brooks by D.A. Brent Cooper, making headlines at the time.

Brooks was scheduled for trial in May of this year, but Cooper quietly dropped the charges right before it was scheduled to begin.

From Main Street Media:

Charges dropped against ex-Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks

Days before he was set to face trial for carrying a weapon on school property, former Columbia firefighter Roy Brooks saw his case dismissed instead.

District Attorney Brent Cooper made the announcement that the charge against Brooks would not be pursued. In a May 21 statement, Cooper said, “After doing an in-depth review of the facts of the case and the applicable law, I came to the conclusion that a jury may find reasonable doubt as to Mr. Brooks’ guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the ethical action was to submit an order of Nolle Prosequi, meaning that the State chooses not to proceed further with the case.”

If Brooks was on campus with an AR-15, which is not in dispute, and he was not a part of any law enforcement agency, the question becomes – why did D.A. Cooper drop the charges?

One possible explanation comes from Brooks’ attorney David Christensen, who claims Brooks had been asked to be at the scene by Columbia Police. From the Main Street article:

“His attorney, David Christensen, said at a November hearing that Brooks had in fact been asked to be at the scene. Brooks had previously served with Columbia’s S.W.A.T. unit and reportedly knew many of the officials who responded to the hoax.”

Brooks rejected a plea deal of one year of probation, choosing instead to face trial and a potential two-year prison sentence, which seems to show some real conviction about this explanation on his part.

It’s worth noting, as Main Street does, that Brooks was let go from the Fire Department under concerning circumstances, including claims of PTSD:

“Brooks was terminated in May 2022 by the Columbia Fire Department after multiple allegations against him, including sexual harassment and violation of the city’s sick leave policy. Columbia’s Civil Service Board upheld the firing in August 2022 and a federal wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Brooks was dismissed in January 2024.”

The Tennessee Star wrote about Brooks’ departure from the Fire Department when it happened, highlighting his PTSD in their story:

“A firefighter in Columbia, Tennessee, suffering from PTSD and undergoing treatment, was first demoted and then dismissed only four years before his retirement.

Roy Brooks, who served as a Firefighter Captain in the city of Columbia, was questioned during a meeting earlier this year by a Chief Officer asking if he was in a “dark place?”

Brooks tells us that this demonstrated that the Fire Department was aware that his behavior was not normal for him.

He was called in by the administration on April 11th and demoted from the rank of Captain to that of Firefighter for “3 separate incidents.”  Brooks told The Tennessee Conservative that this was the first time he had been made aware of two of the “incidents”.

During the meeting with the administration, Brooks was made to sign a last chance agreement form that should have been effective until his retirement in approximately four years.

Part of the agreement was for Brooks to attend Employee Assistance mental health Program (EAP) sessions.  Brooks tells us that he attended the sessions and additionally researched PTSD.

He used some of his accrued sick leave for the next several shifts due to panic attacks that occurred the nights before as he was packing and getting ready to go to work.

Brooks tells us that the time off made him realize how much he was suffering mentally and his acceptance of this prompted his wife to open up to him about his behavior over the past year.

“I had no idea what a bad place I was in,” Brooks said.”

That happened in 2022.

Just one year later, Brooks was on Columbia High’s campus with an AR-15. That much is not in dispute, and The Holler has now seen video of it. In the video (seen below in screen grabs, we do not yet have possession of the video itself), Brooks is very clearly walking with the police during their response to the scene in a manner that shows they were no doubt aware of his presence.

At one point in the video, Brooks can be seen pointing his AR-15 at cars with people in them.

Since Brooks had a history of PTSD-related issues with the fire department which resulted in him being let go, and he was not a police officer, if Columbia Police did ask him to show up with a weapon and join them as they moved on a building full of teachers and children it seems they are now the ones with questions to answer.

And we may not be alone in thinking as much. We have obtained the disciplinary file of recently terminated Columbia High principal Dr. Michael Steele, whose account of that day alleges Brooks was also INSIDE the building with the weapon, where students were located, and actually may have been “in a group” that pointed weapons at the Vice Principal.

In his account, Dr. Steele says he was not informed by law enforcement that Brooks had been on campus with the weapon, he was only informed by a “non-faculty coach” – who told him Brooks had at one point tried to “run him off the road” and was showing up at games, which Steele said he couldn’t do anything about:

“On August 15, 2023, one of my non-faculty coaches came to my office and informed me that he was having a problem with a former co-worker. He advised this co-worker followed him and attempted to run him off the road. He produced a police report and told me he was concerned about his former co-worker showing up at the game on Friday. Following our meeting, I informed my administration and SROs. I went on to advise the district safety coordinator, superintendent, and associate superintendent via phone. I was told by all three they were aware of this person but there was nothing I could do to him if he decided to attend the game. We went back and forth a few times, but ultimately I was told I could not ask this man to leave if he came to the game.”

At which point the coach told Dr. Steele about Brooks being on campus with the weapon:

“On August 22, 2023, my coach came back to my office and said, “Dr. Steele, this is your school, and you need to be aware of this. Back in May, (Brooks) came to your school with an AR15 assault rifle and joined with the SWAT Team to clear your building. (Brooks) has no affiliation with any law enforcement agency but did come on your campus with a weapon.”

Steele says he went to Superintendent Lisa Ventura about it:

“On the morning of August 23, 2023, I emailed Mrs. Ventura and Mr. Stacey and requested an urgent meeting to discuss this issue. Mrs. Ventura responded and said she would be in my office at 8:30am. I explained to Mrs. Ventura how concerned I was that I was never notified in May that a man armed with an AR-15 entered my school. I went on to explain why it was important for me to know about what is happening in my school. I’m going to paraphrase what Mrs. Ventura said: “Dr. Steele, not everyone needed to know. This man was a threat and should have been arrested in May. I had to go over the Sheriff’s head and report this to the Tennessee Department of Investigation (TBI). We’ve been watching this man and he sits out on his front porch in full tactical gear watching Mt. Pleasant middle school. We see him on camera entering your school.He pulls up in his POV, slings on his AR15 and enters your school with the SWAT team. He was also in the group that pointed his weapon at Ms. Cathey (Assistant Principal).

Note: This meeting lasted fifty minutes, and during that entire time Mrs. Ventura affirms that (Brooks) entered my school with an assault rifle. She goes on to say she deemed him a threat and he should have been arrested.”

Steele says he was very bothered by his talk with Ventura:

“After our meeting, I was very disturbed. I knew there had to be several things missing in this entire event, but there is never any justification for not notifying the schools principal and SROs… (Brooks) had no affiliation with law enforcement and should never have been on campus. Furthermore, it was public knowledge that (Brooks) was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. There was absolutely no excuse for not letting me and my SROs know about this incident, and to find out about it almost three months later from a non-faculty coach is still very disturbing to me. I/we had every reason to believe that there was a threat looming for those two and a half months. It wasn’t till much later we found out (Brooks) was a former SWAT medic, and he knew several if not all the SWAT team that responded in May.

That same day, I called the Chairman of the School Board and reported Mrs. Ventura’s actions. I explained how frustrated I was, and he agreed, I should have been notified. He went on to say, he nor the school board were ever notified as well. During that conversation, I told the Board Chair, that it gave me no pleasure, but I felt compelled to file a grievance for hostile work environment and dereliction of duty. He said he understood and that he was not happy at all with how this was handled. That same day, I filed a grievance against Mrs. Ventura.”

Steele then goes on to say he, not Ventura, was suspended – then reinstated:

“On Friday, August 25, 2023, Mrs. Ventura came to my school to have a fifteen-minute meeting with my staff. During that meeting, Mrs. Ventura was not being transparent in my opinion, so I asked her a question. I asked, “Did you or did you not tell me you thought (Brooks) was a threat?” Mrs. Ventura was not happy with my question and told me I could leave or go home. Approximately 40 minutes later, I was suspended without pay pending an investigation. On September 8, 2023, I was reinstated as the principal of Columbia Central High School but received this reprimand.”

Steele ends the account with:

“I should not have been lied to for nearly fifty minutes by my superintendent. This entire incident could have been handled very easily, but there are several political factors at play, and trying to cover those things has proven challenging.

This is a synopsis of events. The entire story is even more compelling, but I did not want to bother whoever may read this with a ten-page response. If this comes up in the future, please offer me an opportunity to answer questions or explain in detail.”

We reached out to Dr. Steele to let him explain, but so far have not heard back. His contract with Columbia High was not renewed, but East Limestone High in Alabama just announced he has been hired there.

Again: Brooks claims, through his attorney, that he was asked to be there during the response by law enforcement. Judging by the fact that the charges were dropped, it seems D.A. Cooper thinks Brooks may have a point.

If so, the question then becomes: Why did law enforcement ask Brooks to be there with an AR-15, on a campus full of children, despite the fact that Brooks is not law enforcement, and has a history of PTSD-related issues that played a part in his termination from the fire department?

And if someone did ask Brooks to be there that day, who was it? Should they not themselves face discipline? Had this happened before? Is the city’s insurance company aware that this happens? Who knows about this, and are they trying to cover it up?

Very often, the cover-up is just as bad or worse than the crime.

Additionally, Brooks appeared to point his weapon in the direction of at least one person outside the building that day, as seen in the pics above. Did he do the same inside, as Dr. Steele says the superintendent told him? Is there video of it from inside the building? What would have happened if God forbid Brooks had shot someone?

We also emailed some questions to D.A. Cooper, and will update this post if he responds.

After the reports that Johnson City Police were possibly taking bribes to cover for serial rapist Sean Williams, another question we have is: Who is policing the police in Tennessee?

With our state having just passed a bill to potentially allow teachers to carry weapons inside schools, this incident also brings up a lot of questions about whether or not more weapons inside these building actually makes our children safer.

More questions than answers. But getting to the bottom of what happened in this particular incident would likely go a long way towards keeping our kids safer in school, and making sure nothing like it happens again.

The Real “Radicals”


This week Holler founder Justin Kanew went and spoke to a group of Dems in Jackson, Tennessee. His speech focused on who the real “Radicals” are in Tennessee. Hint: It’s not the Dems. And he used sarcasm to get the point across.

Watch KANEW’s speech here: “Seriously, you Dems are really out there these days… radical libs, and your crazy ideas.”

TO BE CLEAR, THIS SPEECH IS SATIRE – lots of folks online don’t seem to be understanding the sarcasm here🫤🤷🏻‍♂️, which is to be expected, yet still always quite surprising when it happens.

The point of the speech was to take aim at the idea that Dems are the radical ones, when it’s Republicans who are trying to defund our public schools, forcing children to give birth, refusing to pass common sense gun laws, banning lettuce vaccines, and on and on… while Dems focus on things like this:

TNDP CHAIR Hendrell Remus was also there. His message: “This is the most consequential election of our lifetimes.” Remus tells Madison County keeping Trump out of office is essential, and to remind people TN Republicans have opposed all the things Biden & Dems passed that they now take credit for.

Both speeches are worth watching and sharing.
As Kanew says in the speech: You are the Holler.

And In Case You Missed It – HUGE thanks to the Holler follerers who made this incredible song about us! And to all the folks who showed up at the Capitol this session.

Please consider helping us Holler by chipping in a few bucks. Make it MONTHLY and get a Holler hat!  (or on SQUARE) 

The Holler


Interested in sponsoring? Email:[email protected]


🔥 EPI STUDY: “Vouchers are not a cost-free policy that simply adds on another education option—they are an intentional attack on universal public ed, 1 of the crown jewels of 🇺🇸 society. They make no coherent economic sense.”

UPDATE: Trial of Roy Brooks, terminated firefighter indicted for showing up at a school with an AR-15 during a hoax active shooter call, is Wednesday in MAURY COUNTY. He says police told him to join in, even though Brooks testified he had PTSD when fired.

💔 HEARTBREAK: Rutherford County Superintendent’s son Asher has passed away. All the love to the Sullivan family.

FACT-CHECK: “Whatever else you can say about the economy, consumers are not pulling back on spending.”


SENATOR ROMNEY: I’m not going to be voting for Trump… character is the #1 issue for me. When someone has been determined by a jury to have committed sexual assault, that is not someone who I want my kids and grandkids to see as president.”


OGLES VS. THE JUDICIAL BRANCH: “Rep. Andy Ogles introduced legislation Thursday to undermine the partial gag order imposed on Trump… The act would also allow Trump to sue judges who gag him, Ogles claimed.”

“BOOTLICKERS”: A “Bootlickers” sign appeared above Ogles’ head outside Trump’s porn star affair (while his wife was pregnant) hush money trial today.

OPEN CORRUPTION: 💰 “A deal allegedly offered by Trump to Big Oil execs as he sought $1 BILLION in campaign donations could save the industry $110 BILLION in tax breaks if he returns to the White House…” Must be more of that ‘draining the swamp’ we heard so much about.

JOE WALSH: “If you truly believe Trump is an existential threat, the only logical play is to vote for the only guy who can beat him.” Walsh was a Republican candidate for president.

HARWOOD: “2024 presents a different issue: Should reporters also be neutral about the fate of American democracy?” Same Q here in TN. Be truthful, not neutral.



MUD-SLINGING: Chaos in committee after Marge Greene childishly stoops into the mud to attack Rep. Crockett’s appearance and AOC’s intelligence — causing Crockett to clap back at Greene’s “bleach blonde bad built Butch body”

A SONG ABOUT MARGE: ” 🎶 “Nobody cares what she has to say / some new eyelashes wouldn’t help her anyway” 🎶 Tennessee Brando for the win! Gold 👇🏽🔥

TEXAS TRIBUNE: “GOP school board member campaigned against schools indoctrinating kids… after winning, found the indoctrination she had railed against simply DID NOT EXIST. Children were not being sexualized, she could find no examples of CRT.”

FIXED: Here NY TIMES we fixed this for you.

MADDOW on the upside-down coup flag: “Justice Alito is increasingly unembarrassed about seeming partisan… I’ve never heard anything like this… Chief Justice Roberts has a problem on his hands.”



GOOD NEWS: “Tennessee teachers can move forward with their lawsuit challenging a 3yo state law restricting what they can teach about race, gender, and bias — U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case.”

ETHICS COMPLAINT: “Alleges (unqualified) TN Ed commissioner Lizzette Reynolds accepted travel reimbursements paid for by a group that also lobbies the legislature… expenses paid by her former employer, Excel In Ed.” More like excels in corruption.

FRANKLIN, TN: With Senator Jack Johnson and Mayor Ken Moore in attendance Franklin just unveiled a new Confederate monument honoring Texans who died in the Battle of Franklin — sponsored by Texas tycoon John Nau.

FORCED BIRTH STATE: Sad that Kentucky’s Governor Beshear has to come to Tennessee to stick up for women’s bodily autonomy because our own Governor Lee won’t.

DENIED: “The state of Tennessee took my fertility from me.” TN woman denied an abortion despite a fatal abnormality says TN anti-abortion laws resulted in her losing an ovary, a fallopian tube — and her hopes for a large family.

YASSIN: “The students were peaceful. They arrested them for trespassing at their own university just to show they have the power.” The owner of Yassin’s Falafel House on being arrested with pro-Palestine UT-Knoxville students.

INBOX: Gloria Johnson announces a 95 county tour across Tennessee as she runs for senate, challenging Marsha Blackburn.

(or on SQUARE & CASH APP: $TNHoller) 🔥  



Arming teachers… Lee’s voucher scam down in flames… Kremlin Cameron’s assault on democracy — another circus legislative session in the books. Chip in to support our work, and get a Holler Hat!


FAMILY VALUES? Bulso Fights for 1st Cousin Marriage 🤨


Common sense is in short supply in Tennessee these days. We don’t have to tell you that. Still, you would think a bill that bans marriage between first cousins would be uncontroversial in this day and age.

Well, you would be wrong. Not in Tennessee. Not under this Republican supermajority.

Darren Jernigan’s bill passed with full support in committee. Even Gino Bulso, who for some reason thought it wise to admit his grandparents were first cousins, supported it.

But something happened between committee and the floor that changed Bulso’s mind. Perhaps a fond family memory? Whatever it was, Bulso suddenly decided the bill was a bad idea, and fought hard to kill it on the house floor, even using law legalizing same-sex marriage, which he opposes, as an argument to keep first cousin marriage legal.

CLEMMONS did well to keep a straight face as he said: “Mr. Speaker, I move to table the amendment that would allow 1st cousins to marry.” 🤦🏻‍♂️

It was quite a sight to behold. Bulso’s colleagues struggled to keep straight faces. Parkinson failed, telling us “That was ballsy Bulso’s gonna break the Internet again.”

The lobbyists in the rotunda were seized with fits of laughter watching Bulso try to make his case.

Eventually it passed with an overwhelming majority from both parties, however Monty Fritts joined Bulso in opposition, and 9 other Republicans decided to abstain. 

The headlines Bulso’s crusade to save first cousin marriage is generating are frankly just amazing.

Needless to say, it will be an awkward Thanksgiving at the Bulso house this year. But congrats to Bulso & the TN house GOp on making it into Newsweek🤦🏻‍♂️

What a week. Session is almost over, but our work will continue. Please consider helping us holler about it all by chipping in monthly.  (or on SQUARE) 

The Holler


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TN STUDENTS TO GOV. LEE: “Veto the arming teachers bill… we are hurt by this..”

SENATOR LAMAR: 🗣️ “Teachers don’t even want this. This bill is dangerous… look at that gallery. Those mothers are asking you not to do this.” With a baby in her arms. Powerful. But every Senate Republican voted yes anyway, as troopers dragged out the moms above.

Williamson County School Board Member 👇🏽

YARBRO“Shame on us, Mister Speaker.” The arming teachers bill passed the Senate on party lines with Republican support, as Mcnally had parents removed from the balcony and Yarbro & the Dems said it isn’t what most Tennesseans want to keep kids safe.

Former Williamson County School Board Chair 👇🏽

Covenant Dad on the arming teachers bill👇🏽

It’s not what people want

🔥 JONES: “This stifles speech. People here are upset young people are asking deeper Q’s than your generation. I hope one day they replace you all.” – Justin Jones opposed Ragan’s bill— pointing out he grew up in “divisive” segregated schools, and the truth must be taught.

Tennessee headlines just from today

“NUTS.” — that’s how Dems caucus chair John Ray Clemmons responded to this bill letting 18 year olds open carry assault weapons👇🏽 Not only are Tennessee Republicans not listening to the people in the wake of Covenant, they’re going the other way.

“VOTE THEM OUT!” CHAOS ends committee after Lamberth & Farmer conspire to refuse a roll call vote on the Fritts bill allowing open carry of assault weapons & lowering the age to 18. Republicans making up rules as they go. Not democracy.

Q: “Do we need 18 year olds walking around open carrying assault weapons?” FARMER (R): “Probably not.” In a moment of honesty the Civil Justice chair admits his concerns about the bill he voted for— but doesn’t regret ducking the voice vote that led to the eruption.

POWELL: “I’m at a loss— we’re putting the worship of the gun ahead of the love of people.” Jason Powell opposed the Fritts bill for open carry of assault weapons as young as 18. Lamberth 🐔made Farmer duck 🦆 a roll call vote. The audience erupted. Senate Republicans then passed an arming teachers bill.

TN MOMS: “Elections are coming up, girls… democracy in Tennessee is on life support.” TN Moms react to an emotional committee ending abruptly when Farmer & Lamberth ducked a roll call vote on Fritts’ open carry of assault weapons by 18 year olds bill.

To recap…

HEY GINO: “Is the ‘Baby Olivia’ anti-abortion video you just forced into Tennessee schools indoctrination?”
Sponsors Bulso & Bowling say no — Senator Heidi Campbell disagrees, saying it’s part of a theocratic Christian Nationalist agenda taking hold in Tennessee (+ 🇺🇸)

NASHVILLE SCENE: “Local OB/GYN says the most egregious issue in the video is how it measures the timeline of pregnancy… They’re trying to ‘teach’ human development but they’re just teaching false embryology.”

What it actually looks like. Little different than the baby Olivia video.

TN PARENTS:  “Parents’ rights should be parents’ rights for all parents — the @TNGOP supermajority are hypocrites.” TN parents call out the hypocrisy of Faison’s “Parents Bill of Rights” as Republicans force kids to watch anti-abortion videos, attack trans kids etc.

CHALKBEAT hears what we’re hearing – Lee’s vouchers are hanging by a thread: “Lee’s push to create a statewide school voucher system is running out of time as Republican lawmakers work to reconcile significantly different proposals.” – KEEP CALLING.

And on and on 💰

HOMESCHOOLERS AGAINST VOUCHERS: “Taxpayer💰should not fund private education… (vouchers) are not conservative. We consider it educational welfare.” “For Your Children” ministry homeschoolers “fundamentally oppose” @GovBillLee’s voucher scam and the inevitable strings that come with vouchers.

DEBERRY PAID OFF: “Are you familiar with the segregationist history of vouchers? How much is @govbilllee paying you?” After being booted from the Democratic Party, ex Rep. John Deberry now helps Lee push his voucher scam — and Lee gives him ~$18,000/month in taxpayer dollars for it.💰

UNION BUSTIN’ GUV: Anti-Union is anti-worker, Gov Bill Lee. You’re the one making the “big mistake”.

❤️ MUST-WATCH: “I am fully unionized… my life changed… I have things I never thought I could.”
As Gov Lee union busts in Nooga— HAYWOOD, TN folks have their lives changed by union work & Biden’s $9.2 BILLION Blue Oval investment.

“AN UNPRECEDENTED BILLION-DOLLAR CORPORATE TAX GIVEAWAY”: Dems sound the🚨 as Republicans (+ Johnny Shaw) gleefully hand billions to corporations based on a nonexistent lawsuit— yet cry poverty over feeding kids in schools, expanding health care, etc

SHAW: “Get out of my face!” Rep Johnny Shaw (D) loses it on us & calls for a trooper when we ask why he was the 1 Dem yes vote on an unnecessary billion-dollar corporate tax handout. (Also: the attack on the human rights commission, Sexton’s rules, badmouthed the Justins, etc)

SUING THE STATE: “We urge the court to use its authority to stop the suffering pregnant patients are enduring.” TN women denied abortion care are suing the state over its (no real exceptions) ban, for putting their lives in jeopardy. #ForcedBirthState

A NATIONAL ALARM: This week BLOOMBERG and THE GUARDIAN both sounded the alarm 🚨 about Tennessee local outlets should have been sounding a long time ago. Either you’re calling it out or you’re helping to normalize it. There is no third option.

WATCH: “Be truthful, not neutral.” – Kanew holds a 1-man protest as The Holler is kept out of Speaker Sexton’s public press conference yet again, while the rest of local media again says nothing. Also denied access to the House floor, where the Dems held theirs.

LYIN LIZZETTE: The “Public Higher Education Fee Waiver” Lee’s TN Ed commissioner #LyinLizzette Reynolds signed, which very clearly says she committed perjury when she claimed to have been employed 6 months. In bold letters.

WARNER: “She needs to step aside… the damage is done.” Republican Rep. Todd Warner calls on unqualified commissioner Lizzette Reynolds to resign after she repeatedly lied to get free tuition (aka perjury). Lee’s pick has been a trainwreck.

CARTOONS OF THE DAY #ForcedBirthState #Eclipse

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Lee’s Ed Commish Ignores Calls To Resign

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Speaker Sexton Implies Judge Lied About Faison Complaint

Tennessee’s new legislative hasn’t even started yet and it’s already off to a ridiculous start.

This morning Chancellor Russell Perkins decided records that would show the public who signed off on taxpayer-funded expenses used to keep an intern quiet about alleged harassment that led to TN House GOP Vice Chair Scotty Campbell’s resignation during the Tennessee Three expulsion hearings would be kept locked up.

It’s a ruling that will likely be appealed, but of note in the judge’s decision was a tidbit about another complaint about TN House GOP Caucus Chair Rep. Jeremy Faison.

The judge lists among the received items:

“A 2nd folder dated 4/5/23, with an alleged victim’s first name containing 2 pages of notes pertaining to a complaint against Rep. Faison”

That’s quite specific.

Many questions arise: Who filed the complaint? Who fielded it? Were there other expenses associated with it paid for by taxpayers also used to silence the harassed, as appears to be the case with Campbell?

Speaker Sexton brought in high-priced private attorneys to keep the information about the Campbell cover-up expenses a secret with Governor Lee’s approval, so for now we won’t learn more about the Campbell harassment.

But the Faison situation is entirely new, so reporters had questions.

Chris O’Brien from Channel 2 managed to connect with both Sexton and his legislative office director Connie Ridley, and they made the wild choice to not only refuse to give any info about the Faison complaint– but to DENY THE EXISTENCE OF IT ENTIRELY.

Bold move! So on the one hand we have a chancellor with a super specific description of files regarding a complaint about Faison, (who is known mostly for trying to pants a ref in a gym full of kids).

On the other hand we have a Speaker who notably doesn’t even appear to be telling the truth to his own district about where he lives claiming the complaint is a figment of the Chancellor’s imagination.

Who to believe? Such a tough choice!

The truth will reveal itself in due time. It always does.


Unveiling the Layers of Concern Surrounding School Vouchers in Tennessee

The promise of school vouchers in Tennessee shimmers with the allure of parental choice, but a closer look reveals a tapestry woven with concerns. While the notion of increased options holds undeniable appeal, a critical examination exposes potential pitfalls for academic achievement, student equity, and the broader educational landscape.

Academic Achievement

The central pillar of the voucher argument rests on its impact on student learning. However, initial optimism crumbles in the face of stark data. Studies like Hanushek et al.’s (2017) Louisiana research paint a sobering picture, with students participating in voucher programs lagging behind their public school counterparts by an average of 5 points in math and 3 points in reading after three years (Greene et al., 2017). Similar echoes resonate in Indiana, where Greene et al.’s (2017) investigation revealed minimal academic gains and even slight declines of 5 points in math and 3 points in reading for voucher students. These findings, mirrored in Tennessee-specific studies like Carnoy et al. (2020) and Hansen et al. (2021), necessitate caution before assuming widespread academic benefits from vouchers.

Oversight and Equity

Unlike public schools bound by stringent standards, private institutions participating in voucher programs operate with varying degrees of oversight. This raises concerns about the quality and inclusivity of the education provided. As Greene (2023) highlights, inadequate monitoring risks misallocation of public funds and exacerbating existing educational inequities. This issue amplifies when considering underrepresented groups and students with special needs, who require robust safeguards to ensure access to appropriate support and prevent further marginalization (Carnoy et al., 2020; Hansen et al., 2021). Notably, only 40% of private schools participating in Tennessee’s voucher program received a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ rating on state assessments (Carnoy et al., 2020).

Representation Matters

The question of who truly benefits from voucher programs deserves scrutiny. Evidence suggests a growing trend of families not facing financial hardship utilizing vouchers, casting doubt on whether the intended beneficiaries reap the rewards. In Tennessee, only 18% of participants come from the lowest income quartile, highlighting a shift towards wealthier families taking advantage of the program (Hansen et al., 2021). This phenomenon challenges the principle of equitable resource allocation and necessitates a closer examination of how voucher programs incentivize participation across socioeconomic brackets.

Impact on Educators

The introduction of vouchers affects not only students but also the teaching community. While proponents argue for potential improvements in public education through increased competition, concerns arise about funding cuts, reduced salaries, and increased workloads for teachers. Moreover, while autonomy might appear appealing, market-driven pressures introduced by vouchers can constrain pedagogical freedom. Research by Hansen et al. (2021) underscores the need for careful consideration of these competing forces, while Greene et al.’s (2017) study highlights potential challenges in professional development and accountability within voucher systems. Tennessee’s voucher program could divert up to $1 billion away from public schools over the next five years, potentially impacting staffing and resources (Hansen et al., 2021).

Unveiling the Myth of Need

The narrative that vouchers primarily benefit families facing financial hardship crumbles under closer scrutiny. Studies like Greene’s (2023) indicate a growing trend of wealthier families opting for vouchers, raising questions about the program’s effectiveness in addressing educational disparities. This misalignment between intended beneficiaries and actual users calls for a reevaluation of voucher programs’ ability to deliver on their promises of equal educational opportunities.

A Call for Evidence-Based Choices

As Tennesseans navigate the complex landscape of education reform, the decision on school vouchers demands a measured approach rooted in evidence and a dedication to inclusivity. The concerns outlined here, ranging from academic performance to societal consequences, necessitate thorough consideration and open dialogue. Only through careful analysis, informed by rigorous research and diverse perspectives, can Tennessee craft an educational system that truly serves the needs of all its students and paves the way for a brighter future.

Joe Peeden is a current private school teacher but spent 10 years in Knox Co Schools.


Carnoy, M., Jacobsen, R., Mishel, L., & Rothstein, R. (2020). The Education Savings Account Pilot Program in Tennessee: Preliminary Impacts on Student Achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 407-428.

Greene, J. (2023, March 29). Research on school vouchers suggests concerns ahead for education savings accounts. Brookings Institution. ty-school-options-as-possible/

Greene, J. P., Hitt, C. L., Krieshok, T. S., & Shuls, J. M. (2017). The Effects of Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program on Student Achievement: A Matching Study. Education Finance and Policy, 12(4), 407-447.

Hansen, M. T., Rodriguez, O., & Smith, R. W. (2021). Does School Choice Improve Achievement? Evidence from Tennessee’s Education Savings Account Program. Educational Policy, 35(3), 456-502.

Hanushek, E. A., Kain, J. P., Markman, J. D., & Rivkin, S. G. (2017). The Effects of School Vouchers on Student Achievement in Louisiana: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 9(4), 147-201.

Walsh, A. (2023, January 4). How School Voucher Programs Hurt Students. TIME.

Memphis Pastor: “School & Board Upheld Constitution With Satanic Temple Decision”

“This moment offers us, yet again, an opportunity to believe the gospel of the God who does not coerce or control, but can work grace into the world even through The Satanic Temple.”

When I stepped up to preach last Sunday, I never imagined that by the end of the week I would be penning an Op-Ed in defense of The Satanic Temple. But here we are.

Despite the objection of petitioning pastors, Chimney Rock Elementary and the local school board did the right thing by providing space for The Satanic Temple. They refused to infringe upon First Amendment rights. They refused to apply religious freedom inconsistently by allowing Christians special privileges they would not allow other groups.

Instead of criticizing and protesting their decision, Christians should applaud it.

Yes, we can disagree with The Satanic Temple’s atheism (they are, in fact, atheists not satanists). We can even feel revulsion at their choice of name. But what we cannot do, what we should not do, is force the school to act upon our religious beliefs. To do so would confirm for The Satanic Temple that Christians are, in fact, the fascists they think we are.

Schools give churches maximal latitude, inviting us to help fundraise, provide for underprivileged students, and even conduct after school Bible studies. This permeation of the wall of separation between church and state is a privilege they offer us not a right we can demand. To deny that privilege to others because we do not like their organization’s name is not only to deny them something that is not ours to deny, but it is also to resist the application of their constitutional rights. The American courts have affirmed this repeatedly.

But the courts should never have had to decide it. American Christians should excitedly support it. Early American Protestants argued for a Principled Pluralism, which affirmed the God-given rights of people to disagree with my religion and still participate in the American experiment. They determined that for this country to be a functional democracy, pluralism must be valued on principle. More than just good nation-building, Principled Pluralism flowed from Protestant theology: the Christian God is not interested in coercion or control. The Christian God honors free will and the freedom of conscience. The Christian gospel can stand on its own without legal force behind it. Authoritarianism undercuts the Christian message that God died on a cross rather than taking Satan’s temptation to control the kingdoms of the world.

In a state where voucher programs are threatening to cut the funds flowing to public schools in order to support private schools for the wealthy, the truly true evil at work in our educational system is not atheists trying to help our kids think rationally. With The Satanic Temple, the church might find a worthy partner in resisting the commodification of education, the exploitation of teacher labor, and the funneling of taxpayer funds to private schools. Indeed, we might find in The Satanic Temple, an ally in the education of our most vulnerable students. And in that they might be the unwitting agents of God’s grace in the life of a child. 

When I prayed before my congregation on Sunday, I never imagined that by the end of the week I would be writing an Op-Ed defending The Satanic Temple. But here we are. Fortunately, we do not have to stay where we are. This moment offers us, yet again, an opportunity to believe the gospel of the God who does not coerce or control, but can work grace into the world even through The Satanic Temple.

Tom Fuerst is the lead pastor of Memphis First UMC. He received his B.A. in Biblical Studies from Hannibal LaGrange University (2003), a M.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Missouri (2006), a M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary (2010), and a PhD. in Rhetoric from the University of Memphis (2022)