. "2. The Copycat Factor: Mental Illness, Guns, and the Shooting Incident at Heritage High School, Rockdale County, Georgia." Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2003.
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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
available to local youth and are also not uncommonly brandished during interpersonal disputes.
Heritage High School is one of three high schools serving residents of Rockdale County. The oldest of the three schools, Rockdale County High School, is located in the old town of Conyers and serves a population that has higher percentages of minorities and working-class whites than the others. The newest, Salem High School, was built in 1991 as part of a national progressive education movement that emphasizes team teaching across a variety of subjects.
Heritage, built in 1976, is touted as the flagship high school in Rockdale County. It boasts high SAT scores, high graduation rates, top-ranking soccer and baseball teams, and a good band program. Administrators claim that many families move into the Rockdale area so their children may become beneficiaries of what the Heritage program has to offer. The school enrolls about 1,400 students in grades 9 through 12. Of the three county high schools, Heritage maintains the highest average SAT scores, the highest grades, and the lowest dropout rate. SAT scores run about 100 points above the state average. Over 97 percent of students graduate and 70 percent go on to college.
Situated just off Highway 138 in the southwest portion of the county, Heritage was built and designed on a traditional model of educational philosophy that has continued. The school building forms a T, the center of which is the school’s common area where students gather before and after school and during lunch periods. Two wings consist mainly of classrooms and offices. The third houses the school auditorium/gymnasium and auxiliary areas. Parking lots are located in the front and rear of the school. A circular drive in front allows for drop-offs, and buses load and unload in the rear, near doors opening into the commons area.
School officials reported that both before and since the shooting incident, day-to-day problems have been minor and infrequent, the most common being smoking in the restrooms, thefts from lockers, fender benders in the parking lots, and an occasional confrontation or fight between students. On a few occasions, students have been caught bringing drugs or knives into the school.
While overall school problems have been and continue to be minor, the school system has nonetheless maintained an active security program. Prior to the shooting, each of the area high schools was assigned one school resource officer, a sworn law enforcement official responsible for both the high school and its linked feeder middle school. Heritage also maintained four video surveillance cameras prior to the shooting. The TV