MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. (Marshall County Tribune-Courier) — Following the tragic Jan. 23 shooting at Marshall County High School, a number of organizations and local businesses have hosted fundraisers for the victims and since that time, many individuals have continued to donate. The fund, which is split into accounts, one at First Kentucky Bank and one at Community Financial Services Bank (CFSB), as of last week held approximately $600,000 total.
As of this week, the remainder of those funds should be ready for disbursement to the families of the children who were injured in the shooting.
A recent social media outcry from a woman claiming the funds weren’t being used properly and alleging there were victims with unpaid medical bills received an enormous amount of attention but also a swift response. Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett said the school’s insurance company is responsible for the medical bills of those injured in the shooting and some have already been paid while others are currently being processed but all medical bills will be paid and not through the victims’ fund but through the school’s insurance.
“If there are still some that haven’t been paid just contact the board office and let us know,” he said. “If it’s hung up in paperwork we can help but we need to know about that so we can help.”
Lovett said the school’s insurance comes into play as a secondary source of coverage, by law, so it covers whatever the individual’s personal coverage didn’t. He said the families of 15-year-old Bailey Holt and 15-year-old Preston Cope were fully reimbursed for any funeral expenses by the school’s coverage. He also noted the school has nothing to do with the victims’ fund and legally cannot be involved.
Steve Fisk, Lakes Region Executive with First Kentucky Bank and President of the Rotary Club of Marshall County, is one of about 10 committee members overseeing the Marshall Strong victims’ funds. He said while the committee members and its four advisors are not all part of Rotary, the fund is under the umbrella of the Rotary, utilizing its 501c3 status. He said the funds were split into two accounts because the idea was that in any city and any county in the region, people would have the option to walk into at least one of the available branches to make donations in person.
Fisk said the committee hopes to disburse checks to the 14 victims’ families this week as the families of Holt and Cope have already received their portions—but there have been a number of hurdles getting to this point that have delayed disbursement.
Fisk said initially, the group was holding off until the influx of funds started to slow a little because they wanted to be able to disburse the money one time. He said the incoming funds didn’t slow until around mid-April. In the meantime, he said they tossed around the idea of a number of different means for disbursement.
Fisk said they first had to define “victim.” He said his son was in the commons area on Jan. 23 and certainly is a victim, but wasn’t injured. So, he said, they decided to limit it to the Kentucky State Police’s definition of ‘victim,’ which narrowed it down to 14 (other than Holt and Cope).
They then had to decide the process of determining how much each victim would receive, so Fisk said they decided on a percentages-based system instead of dollar amounts (as funds continued to pour in as the conversation was ongoing). He said to determine each specific case, they looked to the severity of injuries.
Fisk said the next hurdle was working through the idea of the money being used properly in that it’s actually used for the benefit of the children who were injured. He said that led them down a path of discussing setting up trust funds but many of the victims wouldn’t age into access for another two-to-four years and many on the committee didn’t believe donors intended for the dollars to sit in an account, inaccessible, for that length of time. But they also had to address the legalities of disbursing money to families in which the parents are split and custody is shared, which added another level of complexity to the process.
Fisk said they also received a number of donations specifically for a scholarship fund so they worked to try to keep those funds separate.
Finally, Fisk said, the committee has finalized the thought process and the funds will be used as follows: a portion of the funds will be set aside for scholarships in memory of Holt and Cope and the rest will be split based on the committee-approved percentages among the 14 remaining victims.
Fisk said the Community Foundation of West Kentucky will take over and manage the endowment that will fund future scholarships. He said at some point in the future, he and everyone else on the committee will be gone and the Rotary Club may or may not be still in existence—but the Community Foundation of West Kentucky will still be around and still have the ability to manage the funds so it’s the safest and most reliable means for managing and protecting the dollars for their intended use.
Fisk said in addition to the advisors who regularly participated in the committee meetings, they also accepted advice from people who were involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Heath High School shooting, who were instrumental in offering dos and don’ts.
“We’ve tried to do our due diligence with every avenue to not make the mistakes others have made. Somebody is not going to like what we do and think we should’ve done it differently but when you have 15 people around the table, not everyone gets what they want—but we’re after the fairest solution for everyone involved,” he said. “If I had a regret it would be that we haven’t already disbursed the money but it’s not that we didn’t want to. I hope everybody is satisfied at the end of the day that we’ve done the right thing and did the best we could.”