Reporter covering Nashville school shooting makes stunning announcement on-air: ‘I am a survivor’

While covering a deadly school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, a local reporter said that she is also a survivor of a school shooting.

On March 27, a 28-year-old transgender person shot and killed three children and three staff members at The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville for children in preschool through 6th grade. Police shot and killed the shooter.

Joylyn Bukovac, a local reporter for WSMV 4, was on the scene in Nashville, and in the midst of her coverage shared that she had survived a school shooting as a child.

"This is something that hits very close to home for me — many of you might not know this, but I am actually a school shooting survivor," Bukovac said. "It happened a while ago — I was in middle school."

Bukovac noted that nearly 380 school shootings have occurred since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

"My middle school being one of them. This school being one of them," she added. "Some people have been reaching out to me saying enough is enough — when is all this gun violence going to change? — and that’s a really good question that we’re going to keep on asking."

In the first 42 days of 2023, there were 72 mass shootings in the United States. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for U.S. children — every day, 22 children are shot.

Bukovac said that the most recent shooting resurfaced "a lot of tough memories."

She then shared some advice for families and parents that she had personally learned in the aftermath of her own school shooting experience.

"My biggest advice is for all the families here: If your student witnessed the unthinkable today, just be very gentle with them and let them talk when they’re ready, because the shock that they’re going to be feeling when they’re coming home is going to be unfathomable," she said. "I know, I was actually in the hallway when the gunman opened fire in my school shooting."

Bukovac said she was at eighth grade at the time, and even years later cannot "describe the shock."

"I wasn’t really ready to talk about it for two years really," she continued. "So just give them some time — if they’re not ready to talk, don’t be overly concerned; everyone copes in their own way, so just really be there for them and open up that line of communication."

Students who witness a school shooting report feeling panicked, distressed, or numb, according to the American Psychologist Association, and are likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress symptoms, anxiety and depression.

Bukovac also shared that she's now a mom, and as a parent is trying to put herself "in everyone's shoes that will be coping with some tough emotions in helping their children work through that."

Following her on-air coverage, Bukovac tweeted that "reporting on a school shooting as a school shooting survivor and now as a mom has been indescribably heart breaking," adding that "something needs to change."

Bukovac did not publicly share which school shooting she survived. On Feb. 5, 2010, the date she mentioned, a 15-year-old student at Discovery Middle School in Alabama shot and killed a 14-year-old peer.

"I appreciate all the support I’ve received after sharing my story. I don’t talk about it much, but I think about what happened on February 5, 2010 often. I just want people to know they aren’t alone," Bukovac wrote in another tweet. "I also want to discuss solutions. As a mom, I am worried for the future."

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story identified the shooter as a “transgender woman.” It has since been updated to “transgender person” until we have more information on the specificity of their gender identification.

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