Student credited with preventing tragedy

By Greg Gelpi

Despite her fear, she knew what she had to do, and she did it.

Ciera Clarke, a freshman at Lovejoy High School, walked into her fourth period class in September and noticed a friend with his head on his desk. Concerned, she asked what was wrong and learned of his plot to kill an unknown number of students and staff members.

At first, Clarke thought it was a joke, but learned during lunch after talking with classmates that it was not. She immediately informed the police, and the police arrested the 14-year-old suspect.

"We were a little freaked out by it," Clarke said. "It then scared us."

She nervously anticipated reprisal for turning her friend and classmate into police, Clarke said.

"When he found out, we thought he would send someone to do something to us," Clarke said.

She was "shocked" when she found that he wanted to thank her.

Her concern for a friend revealed a plot to kill countless students and faculty. Her response to the revelation foiled the plot, Lovejoy High School Principal Mike Duncan said.

Clarke told of the chilling plan she uncovered, a plan to trap students in a hallway, take hostages and kill Duncan and school secretaries to prevent law enforcement from being notified.

"Her coming forward?was really instrumental in starting the investigation," Duncan said. "She had an incredible amount of courage and strength."

Her principal said he didn't know what would have happened had she not come forward, but he did know that Clarke's parents did a good job of teaching her responsibility and the difference between right and wrong.

"What needs to be said is that many students at Lovejoy have this commitment," Duncan said.

State Rep. Mike Barnes, D-Hampton, recognized Clarke for her actions. He presented her with an "Outstanding Georgian" certificate at the Second Annual Georgia School Safety Seminar Monday in front of about 700 law enforcement officers and educators from throughout the state.

Barnes' three children graduated from Lovejoy. He learned of Clarke's actions when he called the school shortly after the incident.

"It's still in an envelope," Clarke said. "I didn't want to mess it up."

She said she didn't expect so much attention for simply doing what she knew she was supposed to do.

"I just thought the principal would give me a certificate," Clarke said.