. "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
attention deficit disorder and began taking the medication Ritalin. His grades reportedly improved afterward. The following year, the family moved once again, this time to Kernersville, North Carolina, following another change in his stepfather’s business career.
Research for this study included interviews with a number of people who had known T.J. in North Carolina, all of whom had been shocked when they learned what had happened at Heritage High School. They uniformly volunteered that he seemed “normal” at that period of his life. In Kernersville, T.J. had been involved in many activities, including friendships and play in his neighborhood and organized baseball. He had won fishing contests and been a successful athlete, skilled with a baseball bat. There was some indication that his older stepbrother was “macho” and bullied and harangued him occasionally, but other reports indicated that this was “normal sibling stuff” and that T.J. also respected and looked up to his stepbrother, who “stuck up for him” with others.
While the record of T.J.’s childhood before Kernersville is less detailed, some aspects of the quality of family life are consistently evident. The testimony of T.J. himself, of his mother and his stepfather, and neighbors and relatives all indicate that family life following his mother’s remarriage was very close and somewhat turned in on itself, probably because of the frequent changes in residence. T.J.’s mother took primary responsibility for the children and monitored them very closely. Even though his stepfather traveled frequently on business, he was also very involved with the children when he was at home.
The family engaged in many activities together. Over the years these included hunting and fishing, golf, and frequent weekend camping trips. To the extent that they socialized outside their own immediate family, it was usually with extended family members. They were religious, Roman Catholic, and attended church services regularly.
The household rules and routines were detailed and supervised. The children had regular chores. The house was always extremely neat and the children neatly attired. T.J.’s mother closely monitored his Ritalin medication from the time it began in fourth grade up through the morning he opened fire at Heritage High School. She paid close attention to medical advice about possible adverse effects of long-term use and made sure that T.J. took Ritalin “holidays” whenever he did not have to attend school. She never entrusted the medication regime to him, however, and personally gave him the medicine to take each day that he went to school.
Corporal punishment was a feature of childrearing in this household, administered by T.J.’s stepfather. While some experts classify any use of corporal punishment as abusive, there is no evidence that it was frequent or severe in this case or at odds with the standards of the various communities in which they lived, all of them culturally similar despite their