The Tragedy in Room 108

An angry teen killed his teacher and forever changed a Kentucky town.

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Disturbing words. Several times, at the urging of teachers, classmates tried to befriend Scott. But he wasn't interested. "I don't need any friends," he told one girl. In November, a class bully picked on him and they got into a fistfight. Scott's glasses were broken. But Deanna McDavid sent them to Doc Webb, a local optometrist, and had them back to Scott before he boarded the bus for home. In December, when a few classmates wished him a good Christmas vacation, he told them, "It will be the same hell, just a different place."

Deanna was looking forward to spending Christmas with her family, but when she left school for the holiday, Scott was on her mind. She had given him a C for his midterm English grade and he was upset. His other grades were all A's and B's and he didn't want a lower mark blemishing his record. He asked her to change it, but she said no. But beyond the grade, Deanna was worried by several things he had written. As part of the state's curriculum reform, students were required to write much more and to keep portfolios. Scott's writings were laden with violence, death and dying. Deanna wondered how much of that macabre writing simply mimicked what he read and how much reflected how he felt himself. She feared he might kill himself.

His sympathetic essay on King's book Rage worried Deanna. But there was more. When she assigned the class an essay entitled, "The Worst Day of My Life," Scott wrote about the day he was born. Meanwhile, several of his classmates, including Cody Keneson, say Scott had been telling them how much he hated "the bitch." He talked about blowing up Miss McDavid's mailbox and "getting a gun for her."

When school resumed in early January, Deanna began voicing her concerns to colleagues. She called Deanna Phillips and said, "I wish he were your student so you would have to talk to him." She considered calling his parents, but they had no phone and she feared it would make things worse between Scott and his father. Most important, Deanna McDavid was reluctant to take the process to the next step because she didn't want Scott to feel she had betrayed him. She thought she was finally getting close to him. She did not see that perhaps she was getting too close, trying too hard.

On January 7, Deanna consulted Becky Walker, director of a new state youth services program. She repeated her concerns about Scott and later asked Walker about getting him help. But she remained reluctant to act. The next day she met with Walker, McDowell and Vicki Young, director of a county student assistance program. They decided they needed more information about Scott and his family. Once again, Deanna asked for time. Less than a week later, she was with him in the guidance office when Assistant Principal Murphy came by. "Deanna put her arm around Scott," Murphy recalls, "and said, 'Mrs. Murphy, tell Scott I care about him. I care about all my students.' "

Within hours of the murders, counselors from all over Kentucky descended on Grayson. But the therapy would have to play out over a much longer time period. First, Carter County had to mourn.

On Thursday, January 21, hundreds of people lined up at the Malone Funeral Home to pay their respects to Deanna McDavid. Her casket was open, but they say you couldn't tell she had been shot because the undertaker had fixed her hair to cover the bullet hole. She was dressed in her trademark school uniform—white oversize sweater and white stirrup pants. In her hands was a school bell, an award for outstanding teaching given to her at graduation in 1991.

Black bows adorned Grayson's businesses, and at noon on Friday, nearly all of them closed during Deanna's funeral at the First Baptist Church. After thefire siren sounded, there was a two-minute silence, even on the local radio station, WGOH. Two hours later, Marvin Hicks's funeral was held in Olive Hill.

In the following months, Joann McDowell and school district counseling director Allen Hall led four sessions a week at East Carter. The students held hostage in Room 108 came; so did others, including Angie Shimek, whom Scott had threatened at gunpoint in the middle of his shooting spree. The pain was palpable, and so were the anger and, for some, guilt, for not having done something to avoid the tragedy.