shoot the preps, he would have been upstairs where the preps [hang out].”
As is true in most high schools, there is social antagonism at Heath between groups whose values or styles clash. The Goth crowd into which Carneal hoped to become better integrated expressed derision toward the “good” kids in the prayer circle. Some students said that the group was hypocritical, because they professed beliefs that they did not live up to. (One respondent cited an example of members of the group signing a pledge to wait for sex until after marriage, even though a number of the signatories were already known to have had sex.) The Goth group signaled its disdain by intentionally talking loudly during prayer time. One friend reported to the police that Carneal had said the previous Wednesday “that the hypocrites in prayer group were going to go down, ‘cause he was going to bring ‘em down.” At the same time, it is important to remember that Carneal was friends with at least some of the students in the prayer circle through band, including Nicole Hadley, whom he later described as his closest friend.
Statements by Carneal and others in the psychiatric and psychological reports indicate that he was envious of other students who were more successful socially and academically, and this broad category included both preps and “good kids.” Some of these feelings seem to have been exacerbated by Carneal’s perceived inadequacy in comparison to his sister, who was a school valedictorian and popular among her peers. She was also a senior member of the band, whereas Carneal was one of only two of the 62 members who initially did not march in the band competition because there were not enough uniforms. This was a source of embarrassment to him, but later two students dropped out, and Carneal was allowed to march.
Shortly after the shooting, Kelly Carneal told one of the psychiatrists involved in the case that Michael “tries to be as good as me, and he can never size up,” although she emphasized that she never felt she really knew her brother.9 Carneal was occasionally asked by teachers and others why he could not perform as well as his sister had. To escape these unfavorable comparisons, Carneal apparently had begun to adopt an alternative identity that would protect him from these unflattering comparisons. He told one of the psychologists, “Everybody talked how I was not like my sister, so I figured if I was the exact opposite, people would pay attention to me more.”10
Carneal found a home for this opposite identity in the group of mostly older Goth students, who dressed unconventionally and flouted adult authority in dress if not in action. Some espoused anti-Christian attitudes. The leader of this group dressed in black with a long trench coat, painted his nails black, and was known for having a spork (a spoonlike