the lost children of rockdale county
the heritage high school shooting
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Rachel Dretzin Goodman: Columbine happened a month before the shooting at Heritage. And at that point we had just left Conyers. I had several conversations with our cameraman, people in our crew, about how striking the similarities were between the community in which Columbine High School is and our community in Conyers. And how the same forces that people were talking about in Columbine had existed very clearly in Conyers. And we even made a couple of cracks, "God it's amazing...We're lucky it didn't happen in Conyers." It was that close. So when it did happen in Conyers, we collectively shuddered. It was kind of amazing that after the conversations we had-- that it actually, of all the communities in the country, it happened there.

Barak Goodman: When I heard about it, was just minutes after it happened. We went running over there. We were basically the first or second crew there. There ended up being hundreds of crews, but we were right there just after it happened. And it was this sort of iconic imagery of post--that we all know--of post high school shooting of parents and kids hugging, all of that stuff. But, then we spent the rest of the day going around finding our kids. The kids that were involved and talking to them. They didn't ...there was a kind of lack of affect that fit somehow. Yes, they were surprised, but not that surprised. They were surprised by who it was, the kid was a very ordinary kid. They were remarking on that fact. But the fact of the shooting itself was just another thing. They weren't particularly shaken by it. Which was very shaking to me. I was disturbed by that. Yet it fit with what we had been hearing for months.

RDG: Conyers is no different than any other suburban community in America. There's no reason it should be. It's just that we stayed there. And that we stuck it out in a way that few news crews can afford to do. And that allowed us to discover a whole lot of things that were never mentioned in the coverage of the shooting. Not once--I was struck by the fact, that not once in the coverage of the Heritage High School shooting--not once did anyone mentioned the syphillis outbreak in Conyers. It was as though they were completely unrelated occurrences. To us they were actually very related to one another.

BG: Shootings are not about boys and guns. Syphillis outbreaks are not about girls and promiscuity. They're both about kids searching for something: attention, connection, somebody to take them in hand. There was a wonderful sort of metaphor at the end of the school shooting in Heritage. The boy involved, TJ Soloman, knelt down to the ground and put the gun in his mouth to kill himself. And he was stopped in doing that by an assistant principal who put his arm around him and held him and said, "Don't do it." And TJ dropped the gun, and shuddered, cried, cathartically. And that to me, speaks volumes. Somebody stepped in, took control of this kid. We have a family in our program, at the end of our program, in which the mother does the same thing. She finally steps in, takes control of her kid. All of these things that we're seeing in adolescence: sexual promiscuity, violence, they all have the same root cause. Which is that people, parents but also others, are not stepping in and taking control of children. Giving them limits. And giving them boundaries. And giving them a direction

RDG: I hope that the show by focusing mostly on girls but also on boys, bridges the gulf between these two ideas. That its violence or its sex. . It's both--and they have similar roots. Girls may express some of the same anxieties sexually that boys express through violence. But many of those anxieties are the same.
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