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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
tions of school facilities also occurred during this period. The wave of exclusionary policies, which began with the zero tolerance disciplinary code in 1995 and included other policies, such as increased alternative schooling for youths with disciplinary problems, may also have played a role. However, as Hazel Steward observed, exclusion of students was very common before the zero tolerance initiative began. In the earlier period, exclusion was accomplished informally, as problem students were simply “told not to come back” and were recorded as dropouts.
The observations of Principal Steward at Tilden High School remind us that individual schools adopted a variety of approaches to steer their students away from gangs, drugs, and violence. A full explanation of why Chicago public schools now seem so remarkably safe must take into account not only the policy response from above, in the mayor’s and superintendent’s offices, but also from below. The leaders in the trenches of Chicago public schools responded to the tragedy of Tilden High School with courage and innovation.
Joseph White is still serving the first quarter of his 45 year sentence for the Tilden shooting, at Menard State Prison in Southern Illinois, 300 miles south of the school where it happened. Even if he is paroled after serving half of his sentence, the child he fathered before being incarcerated will be an adult before Joseph White leaves prison. This part of his life is lost forever. His mother was the first to say the shooting was a tragedy for everyone involved.
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