Americans became extremely apprehensive about the movement of guns and gang violence into public schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Chicago was no exception, although the peak in gang violence may have occurred a year or two later than in large East Coast cities. This may have reflected the rate of movement of the crack cocaine epidemic across the country and into the Midwest. Figure 6-3 shows that Chicago street gang-related homicides with black male victims rose steadily from 1987 to 1994 (Block and Martin, 1997). Figure 6-4 shows there was also an increase in arrests in or near Tilden High School from the mid-1980s to the early to mid-1990s.
So by almost any measure, the time of the Tilden shooting was a high point in criminal violence among black youth. The special concern was that this violence was coming into the schools. The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority published results from two surveys conducted in 31 public high schools in 1990 (Stephens, 1992). The results indicated that 1 in 12 public high school students in Illinois reported being the victim in the past year of a physical attack while in or going to and from school. About the same proportion—1 in 12—reported sometimes staying home from school for fear that someone would hurt or bother them. These proportions would certainly have been higher among Tilden High School students when the shooting occurred in November 1992.