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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
Meanwhile, Tilden High School was besieged with gang activity and hallway violence. A teacher who was at Tilden prior to the shooting recalled that gang-connected fights were common in the hallways, “the kind of fights that would empty classrooms out, you know, you’ve got your kids in the classroom and all of a sudden something goes on in the hall and then the whole class just runs out.” The principal of Tilden, Hazel Steward, reported that gang members were conspicuous by their presence: “They roamed the halls; there were gang fights everyday, teachers constantly going to lock the doors.” A school policy was adopted of locking students into the classrooms during class time, “the teachers went in and were supposed to lock their doors, to close out the chaos in the halls.”
A teacher at Tilden emphasized the intragroup nature of this rising tide of violence, which matches the more abstract description provided earlier by Suttles (1968). He observed that “from what I could tell, it was two separate black gangs that were fighting each other, and then two separate Hispanic gangs that were fighting each other. It was more amongst, kind of fighting for dominance, you know, within the racial groups.” The violence that was engulfing South Side neighborhoods in Chicago was not random in the way implied by the initial news reports of the November shooting at Tilden High.
The most telling evidence in the trial came from Joseph White himself, and the following discussion is based on his testimony, with some elaboration as indicated from interviews. Joseph had acknowledged that he was a member of the Mickey Cobras gang and began by recounting the gambling dispute that led to the shooting. The dispute was over a Monday morning dice game in the upstairs locker room or bathroom at Tilden. The first witness for the prosecution, Dewaun Glover, had joined the game and was losing $10 to $20 at a time. Glover indicated that he was losing money that came from the head of his gang, the Blackstone Rangers. Other members of the gang had joined the group when Dewaun tried to reclaim the money he had lost. Before a fight broke out, a police officer arrived and took Joseph and Dewaun to the school disciplinarian’s office. Both youths were suspended for three days.
While he was away from school on suspension, two youths reported to Joseph that “if I didn’t bring the money that I was going to get whipped or banged.” Joseph recalled in court that “I knew that they were going to beat me up, but I didn’t know whether they would have a gun.” His mother recalled that Joseph had refused to let her become involved: “Joey didn’t want to appear cowardly or scared, that’s the