. "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
His favorite group, however, was a rock group, Korn. Among the myriad genres of contemporary music, Korn is classified by one music rating service in the categories “post-grunge, alternative metal, heavy metal” and described as being “ominous, gloomy, nihilistic, aggressive, detached, visceral, bleak, angry, hostile” (Guide, 2001). A review of Korn’s lyrics discloses a few aggressive threats but a much higher proportion of statements of self-loathing, disgust with others, and suicidal longing.
After T.J. entered Heritage High School in the ninth grade, an unambiguous warning sign appeared. There had been local concern about teenage suicide since the string of three deaths two years before, all involving youth who seemed to be loners, like T.J. Although one of these was subsequently reclassified as an accident and a countywide agency report was issued saying there had not been a suicide epidemic, fears were aroused, and Heritage High School began teaching suicide awareness classes. Two of his classmates reported that T.J. had expressed suicidal thoughts. The school and his family reacted appropriately: the school notified the family, and T.J.’s mother took him for a psychological examination. The examiners concluded, however, that he was not at risk.
During his tenth grade year, leading up to his shooting rampage at the end of that year, T.J. grew more and more remote from others. His grades continued to decline, and he engaged in some delinquent acts. One of these was serious. In December, he stole a handgun from his father’s boat and sold it to another youth, who subsequently claimed that he had acquired it for self-protection. T.J. subsequently claimed that the other youth had badgered him to get him a gun because T.J. frequently talked about guns, but that he had disabled the gun before selling it. This act is the only substantiated instance of serious delinquency on his part prior to the shooting. There was also a report, in February, that he had brought a gun to school and showed it to another student, but the report was investigated and never substantiated.
Other instances of delinquency were quite minor. In February, T.J. stole a CD from the desk of a teacher he disliked. On the same day in February when he was reported to have brought a gun to school, he left school early with another boy, got drunk with him, and returned home late. His stepfather punished him by spanking him with a belt, reportedly the only time he ever applied corporal punishment that severe, but also rather striking for the age at which it was administered.
Aside from these incidents, the only form of delinquency T.J. is known to have engaged in consisted of some experimentation with alcohol and marijuana, but this does not appear to have been extensive.
There is some indication here of association with delinquent peers, a known correlate of the development of delinquent behavior. There were three boys he was said to have spent time with who had reputations for