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Teacher allegedly threatened student

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 34-year-old Clayton County high school teacher was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and making a terroristic threat against a student.

Travis Heckstall, a science teacher at Mt. Zion High School, allegedly told one student "he would rip his eye balls out and [urinate] on him, and kill [his] family," according to a Clayton County Police report.

Heckstall allegedly threw a chair and cursed at his class, at about 11:45 a.m., on May 21.

The incident was recorded by students with cell phones, and reported to the school's assistant principle.

A warrant was issued for Heckstall's arrest on Wednesday morning. He was taken into custody at the same time.

Travis Heckstall is listing as living at the same address as State Rep. Joe Heckstall (D-East Point). In a short biography of Rep. Heckstall on the state's legislative web site, the state representative's family is said to include a son named "Travis."

Neither Travis Heckstall, nor Rep. Joe Heckstall could be reached for comment.

According to the police report, the students were in a computer lab that Wednesday, two weeks ago, and two boys began "play fighting" and "horsing around like they always do," students told police.

"Mr. Heckstall then became really mad and started cursing and threatening," according to witnesses' statements to an officer.

The outburst allegedly lasted for about five minutes, and then the 34-year-old science teacher reportedly spat on the floor, grew very calm -- and apologized.

The police were called the next day by Angel McCrary, the school's assistant principle, and Heckstall was told to leave the Mt. Zion campus until an investigation was completed. According to the school system, Heckstall resigned on the last day of class, a week and a half after the alleged outburst.

Heckstall reportedly explained in a written statement that "he was forced to position himself so that he would not lose control of the classroom," according to the police report.

Heckstall, according to the police report, said the student who was acting up in his second-period class has a history of violence, had regularly taunted him, acted aggressively toward him, disrespected him and even threatened him.

According to Heckstall's reported account of events, the student had threatened him in the first-period class a few hours earlier. When he began to act out again, Heckstall reportedly said he had no choice but to respond the same way.

"Mr. Heckstall stated that he did not feel safe throughout the school year," Officer L. K. Arnold wrote in the police report. "Mr. Heckstall stated that he has implemented all of the classroom procedures, including calling parents, giving detentions and removing the juvenile victim from his class. Mr. Heckstall stated that he felt that the juvenile victim was going to carry out his threats this time, because school is ending."

The teacher, who stands five-foot-eight, and weighs about 140 pounds, reportedly said he believed threatening the student kept the classroom safe.

If convicted of the charges against him, Heckstall faces the possibility of a six-year prison sentence.