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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
teachers. She then dealt with the arriving authorities, who included the police and the superintendent, as well as the press. Steward explains that she kept the students in the classrooms all day in order to prevent any retaliation for the shooting. According to Deputy Chief Thomas Byrne of the school patrol units, keeping the students in the classroom was imperative, so all students could be screened by metal detectors on their way out of the school building to find Joseph White’s gun. Despite these efforts, the murder weapon was never recovered.
From that November afternoon forward, the metal detectors became fully operational at Tilden. Steward was quoted in the Chicago Tribune explaining that it took one and a half hours for all the students to file through the metal detectors on the Monday morning after the shooting, delaying the start of classes by more than an hour (November 27, 1992). Extra officers were assigned to Tilden after the shooting. Steward hired the staff necessary to run the detectors every day.
While increasing school security was also Steward’s priority prior to the shooting, after the shooting she recalls immediately recruiting more volunteers from the community, who were also now more forthcoming. By January 1993, she had used the school’s discretionary funds to increase the number of paid full-time security “volunteers” (who were paid the minimum wage) from about 10 to about 42. Significantly, Steward reports recruiting these volunteers from the surrounding community, emphasizing that “I had more volunteers than I did staff, but it was because I used brothers, uncles, fathers, aunts, mothers, so they knew the kids” Steward reports complete support from teachers and the LSC for this action, even though the money could otherwise have been spent on improvements in instruction.
The increase in policing and security coincided with a surge in arrest activity after the shooting. During the 49 school days immediately prior to the November 1992 shooting, 5 arrests were made at Tilden High School. In the same number of school days following the shooting, 17 arrests were made.
Notably, some further short-term security assistance came from an unexpected source—the white community surrounding Tilden High School. She explains, “the community surrounded the school…. For several weeks the community showed up for security…. It was led by a Methodist minister…. They showed up in support of the school…. They patrolled outside the building, acting as security.”
Steward also integrated the larger community into her programmatic efforts to prevent violence. On the Monday after the shooting, grief counselors were deployed to the school. Sixty students volunteered for grief counseling on the Monday after the shooting. Steward recalls that four crisis teams were operating in the school.