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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
uniforms as an option. A sizable majority of Chicago public schools now have strict dress code policies.
In February 2000, in the wake of the accidental shooting of an 11-year-old student at Duke Ellington Elementary School, Superintendent Vallas urged the daily use of metal detectors in elementary schools and ordered the purchase of 1,000 additional handheld metal detectors. By April 2000, not long after the discharge of a gun inside Parkside Elementary School, the proposed number of metal detectors had reached 4,000, to be combined with 178 additional off-duty police officers (allowing at least one off-duty Chicago officer in each elementary school), with the money to support these commitments to come from federal antipoverty funds.
These school security initiatives reflect and reinforce an administration, under the proactive leadership of Paul Vallas, that centralized control over local school issues, especially from schools that, including Tilden, the administration had now placed on probation. It seems reasonable to ask whether the central administration would have felt empowered to impose or propose these measures on individual schools if the Tilden shooting had not so vividly set the disciplinary agenda in Chicago. There is no way to unequivocally answer this question. Still, the strong response from the mayor and the board to the Tilden shooting at least set a precedent of centralized control that was repeated regularly during the 1990s.
To more fully understand the impact of the Tilden incident for Chicago schools, one must examine the response of particular schools. Not-withstanding the significance of the centralized initiatives, in the decen-tralized context of Chicago public schools, change must also find support at the local level. Under the State Public Act 85-1418, each Chicago public school is permitted considerable discretion in determining how to prevent and discipline misconduct and crime. Furthermore, schools still vary in the manner and extent to which they implement mandates from the city and the central administration (Bryk et al., 1998).
A logical starting point for our analysis is Tilden High School. Other schools responded in their own way to the incident and are discussed later. Meanwhile, the shooting dramatically and immediately changed several aspects of the school climate at Tilden. Most notably for our purposes, the shooting fostered an almost immediate emphasis on school security and violence prevention.
Changes in security were evident nearly instantly. After the shooting, Principal Steward reestablished control of the situation by ordering everyone to report to their next classroom, under supervision of their