Several initiatives evolved into ongoing prevention programs at Tilden. In response to the shooting, Steward instituted a Rights of Passage Program for teachers and students. She maintains that this program, which emphasizes positive role-taking and leadership skills, empowered students and teachers to unite against gangs and seek alternatives to gang activity. Steward contends that problems of violence already had begun to decline prior to the Tilden shooting, but that these efforts precipitated further declines.
Steward insists that other common weapons against school violence, suspensions and expulsions and more stringent screening of potential students, were not part of her arsenal. Tilden actually reported a decline in suspensions during the 1994–1995 school year. Nonetheless, a former substitute teacher who returned to teach at Tilden a couple of years after the shooting suggests that Steward found less formal ways to exclude gang members from the school. “I don’t think that they felt that they had to take just any student that came in off the street,” he explained, “And so I felt like there was a lot of … screening of students.”
Steward disagrees and maintains that the gangs actually did not leave the school but rather “went underground” and shifted their activities to outside the school. She insists that the primary disciplinary changes she instituted were “hall sweeps” to remove students lingering in the halls. These students were informed of the school’s rules for hallways and classrooms and about the consequences of breaking them. “They could not bring their activities into the building,” she observes, “and if they did, then there were consequences including transferring out…. They didn’t want to go anywhere … and they knew I was serious.”
Some of Steward’s efforts apparently caught the attention of others in the Chicago public school system. She recalls that other principals sought her help in implementing policies and programs in their schools. For instance, she reports she was asked to give workshops for other principals in “how to react when a crisis occurs.” Furthermore, other schools adopted some of her programs, including Rights of Passage. In fall 1995, Steward was appointed to the position of regional superintendent—a position that allowed her to mentor other principals on a full-time basis. As regional superintendent she was also authorized to oversee the disciplinary decisions, such as expulsions, that were imposed at schools in her region.
The previous sections addressed the question of whether the tragic shooting incident at Tilden high school had a lasting impact on the school and the system as a whole. We conclude based on our interviews with the