and young people throughout the county. County officials worked to bring in counseling resources from outside the county and were successful in doing so. Churches became involved and held community meetings. One church organized a retreat at which some students from Columbine High School came to Rockdale to talk with Heritage students.
On a more long-term basis, the school system has increased the number of psychologists and social workers in the system, and a new parent education program has been introduced in the county. These increases, however, come in an area that already has a high level of public services.
Despite this, public health officials and youth workers that we interviewed expressed ongoing concern that too many local youth still are in need of adult attention. One of them offered the opinion that “It’s not kids. It’s the parents.” The circumstances of rapid community change and of many young people on their own while their hard-working, affluent parents are making long commutes are ongoing structural problems in the area that social service providers continue to confront.
One of the youth focus group participants also reported some changes in community attitudes toward young people with guns since the incident:
“A year ago guns are bad and you are not allowed to touch them. Now it has gotten more loose…. parents are real strict about it a lot, I know my parents are about me having one…. I don’t think it will ever get as loose as what they were. But they are getting looser about you carrying a gun.”
The primary area in which there is evidence of decisive, long-term change in institutional policy is that of relationships between school officials and law enforcement with respect to weapons in schools. Prior to the incident, school officials retained some discretion about whether to report weapons discovered in school to the police. By all accounts, that is no longer the case.
After the incident, there was a series of meetings at which school officials and parents discussed what changes were needed in school security. There was general agreement that bringing in metal detectors was not the answer and that the community “did not want the schools to become like prisons.” There was some pressure also from some parents for systems to detect potential offenders in advance through some kind of psychological screening. School officials successfully resisted that also, without much controversy.
There were a number of behavioral code changes in the schools. Heritage students to whom we spoke grumbled about new dress codes, including such nonsafety-related requirements as that shirts must have collars, along with a rule directly related to T.J.’s shooting strategy that strictly forbids baggy pants of the type in which he concealed the .22 rifle.