7
What Did Ian Tell God? School Violence in East New York

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Gina Arias, Moises Nunez, Ericka Phillips, Peter McFarlane, Rodrick Wallace, and Robert E. Fullilove III

Thomas Jefferson High School, in East New York, was the scene of two episodes of school violence during the 1991–1992 school year. On November 25, 1991, Jason Bentley shot a teacher, Robert Anderson, and shot and killed a fellow student, Daryl Sharpe. On February 26, 1992, Khalil Sumpter shot and killed Tyrone Sinkler and Ian Moore. Although the first shooting had been a shock to the school, the neighborhood, and the city, the second shooting was something more than that. Following on the heels of the first episode and occurring on a day when the mayor was scheduled to speak at the school, the incident took on enormous weight. In brief, the intrusion of violence into the school was read as the breaching of one of the last sanctuaries in a city wracked by violence. Whoever was to blame—and many candidates were proposed— it was surely a terrible and intolerable state of affairs that had come to pass.

That the shootings had a logic of their own, albeit one related to the surrounding violence, was lost in the apocalyptic rhetoric that gripped the press and drove the discourse about the events. Lost in the hubbub was the remarkable work of a few calm people who understood the big picture and kept trying to make it better. Equally lost was the pain of the youth—not just the shooters or their victims, but a whole generation of young people—who were coming to maturity at that peculiar moment in the history of East New York.

In the following pages, we tackle three areas of investigation. First, we describe the two episodes of fatal violence and their aftermath. Sec



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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence 7 What Did Ian Tell God? School Violence in East New York Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Gina Arias, Moises Nunez, Ericka Phillips, Peter McFarlane, Rodrick Wallace, and Robert E. Fullilove III Thomas Jefferson High School, in East New York, was the scene of two episodes of school violence during the 1991–1992 school year. On November 25, 1991, Jason Bentley shot a teacher, Robert Anderson, and shot and killed a fellow student, Daryl Sharpe. On February 26, 1992, Khalil Sumpter shot and killed Tyrone Sinkler and Ian Moore. Although the first shooting had been a shock to the school, the neighborhood, and the city, the second shooting was something more than that. Following on the heels of the first episode and occurring on a day when the mayor was scheduled to speak at the school, the incident took on enormous weight. In brief, the intrusion of violence into the school was read as the breaching of one of the last sanctuaries in a city wracked by violence. Whoever was to blame—and many candidates were proposed— it was surely a terrible and intolerable state of affairs that had come to pass. That the shootings had a logic of their own, albeit one related to the surrounding violence, was lost in the apocalyptic rhetoric that gripped the press and drove the discourse about the events. Lost in the hubbub was the remarkable work of a few calm people who understood the big picture and kept trying to make it better. Equally lost was the pain of the youth—not just the shooters or their victims, but a whole generation of young people—who were coming to maturity at that peculiar moment in the history of East New York. In the following pages, we tackle three areas of investigation. First, we describe the two episodes of fatal violence and their aftermath. Sec

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence ond, we explore the context in which those events occurred. Third, given that this paper is written 10 years after the events, we take a retrospective look at the meaning of the events. A NOTE ON METHOD This project employed situation analysis,1 a theoretically derived qualitative method, to conceptualize data collection and analysis. For these purposes, a “situation” is defined as a complex interpersonal episode. Situation analysis is used to specify the setting, the actors, their roles, the rules governing their behavior, key scripts they follow, and cultural assumptions governing action in order to arrive at a “definition of the situation.” A central theorem governing situation studies is the Thomas theorem, which states, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”2 Accordingly, perception is accorded great weight in understanding the processes that drive human behavior. Triangulation is a key method in situation studies. The mathematical concept of triangulation refers to using trigonometry to locate a third point using bearings from two known points, a fixed distance apart. As applied in situation studies, triangulation refers to the collection of different kinds of data, from different points of view, in order to arrive at the “definition of the situation.” Typically, such exercises are guided by theory: in this case, the work is informed by George Engel’s biopsychosocial model,3 which postulates that illnesses and disorders occur within nested systems, hierarchically ordered such that higher-level systems control lower-level systems. The systems we investigated, from highest to lowest, are: the city, the neighborhood, the small group, the family, and the individual. For purposes of this study, a multicultural team, including three young people literate in “hip hop” culture, was organized. It was assumed—correctly as it turned out—that young people would be essential to the effort of comprehending the culture of the place and the time. The team collected information from multiple sources representing divergent points of view. Box 7-1 is a chronology of the events described in this case study. We spoke formally and informally with many people who were aware of the incidents and/or life in East New York in the period of interest. Formal interviews were conducted with 55 people, including Khalil Sumpter, Jason Bentley, and Joseph Fernandez, then Chancellor of New York City Schools. We were heartened by the helpfulness of many members of the East New York community, as well as by the high level of cooperation we received from all of those involved with the legal system: judges, attorneys, and members of the police force. A few people who held key positions of responsibility at the time of these events refused to speak with us, including: David Dinkins, then mayor;

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence BOX 7-1Chronology of Key Events in the East New York School Shootings 4/90 Khalil Sumpter and Tyrone Sinkler arrested for robbery; Sumpter got probation; Sinkler got one year detention. This led to ongoing “beef.” 10/91 Jermaine Bentley and Jesse Thompson had a dispute over alleged “disrespect” shown to Thompson’s sister. This led to “beef.” 11/25/91 Monday Jason Bentley, intent on protecting brother Jermaine from Thompson, fired three shots, missing Thompson but killing Daryl Sharpe and wounding Robert Anderson. 11/29/91 Friday Daryl Sharpe’s funeral 2/92 Sumpter perceived that Sinkler was repeatedly threatening him and his family. 2/25/92 Tuesday Sinkler stepped on Sumpter’s shoe—they had an angry confrontation. Later, Sinkler allegedly fired shots at Sumpter. 2/26/92 Wednesday Sumpter fired two shots in second floor hallway at Thomas Jefferson High School, killing Sinkler and Ian Moore. Mayor David Dinkins was on his way to the school at the time of the shootings. Later that day Marlon Smith, friend of the deceased young men, shot himself. 2/28/92 Friday Marlon Smith died at Brookdale Hospital, Brooklyn. 3/1/92 Sunday Mayor Dinkins announced $28 million school safety initiative. 3/2/92 Monday Funeral for Tyrone Sinkler. 3/3/92 Tuesday Funeral for Ian Moore. Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood asked, “What is Ian going to tell God about us?” 3/4/92 Wednesday Funeral for Marlon Smith. 8/3/92 Monday Bentley sentenced to 3 to 9 years in prison for manslaughter. 9/7/93 Tuesday Sumpter sentenced to 6 2/3 to 20 years in prison for manslaughter.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence Bruce Irushalmi, then the head of school security; and Carol Beck, then the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School. Lena Medley, principal of Thomas Jefferson High School at the time of this study, also refused to participate. We also did not interview any members of the victims’ families as we were unable to obtain contact information for them. In addition to interviews, a number of outstanding books have been written on the East New York community. Luck was with us: journalistteacher Greg Donaldson’s book, The Ville: Kids and Cops in Urban America,4 based on his experiences in Brownsville and East New York in the 1991– 1992 period, included detailed reporting on the neighborhood of East New York, Thomas Jefferson High School, as well as the two episodes of school violence described here. Other books used to develop this case study include: Upon This Rock,5Getting Paid,6 and Will My Name Be Shouted Out?7 We collected news articles from The New York Times, New York Newsday, Time, Newsweek, as well as major newspapers from other U.S. cities. We obtained a copy of the record of Khalil Sumpter’s trial; Jason Bentley’s case did not go to trial, so no comparable record was available. Statistics on crime, school performance, and housing projects were collected from the appropriate city agencies. Analysis of the qualitative data was conducted using Atlas.ti,8 a software package developed for the analysis of qualitative data. Detailed notes of all formal interviews were entered into Atlas.ti and coded for key themes that emerged from the data. Conceptual mapping was used to develop the relationships of the themes to each other. Ecological analysis was conducted using Infoshare, a geographical information system program for New York City that includes census and health data organized by zip code. A draft of the case study was written and refined based on two processes. First, we assessed the accuracy of the manuscript in light of the raw data, including interview notes, articles, statistical information, and other literature, looking particularly for any data that might refute statements made in the text. Second, we sent copies of the draft to interviewees who had agreed to review and comment on it, including both Jason Bentley and Khalil Sumpter. The final version incorporated new information and comments from readers. The authors are entirely responsible for the content of the final document. This case study has several limitations. First, the brief period of fieldwork limited our ability to understand the complexity of the East New York community. Second, the absence of some key actors and victims’ families from our dataset created a bias toward the “told” story. Third, the passage of time has obscured some parts of the story but made others clearer. To some extent, we are telling the story as it is known now, as

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence opposed to how it happened then. We were aware of all of these issues throughout the data collection and analysis and attempted to balance the effects when possible. The institutional review boards of Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the National Research Council approved this study. THE EVENTS “Let’s Finish It Now” Jason Bentley grew up in East New York, a bright child protected by loving parents.9 He did well in school through the first six grades. His life, however, was deeply affected by living in a neighborhood that was engulfed in violent drug wars. Jason saw violence in the neighborhood from a very young age. He was, as well, surrounded by a crime-dominated street world that had a powerful allure for boys. An event in eighth grade stood out in his mind: he had the opportunity to go to a Catholic high school, but he decided not to take the scholarship test. This was, as he saw it, a decision to follow his brother on what he called in 2001 “the wrong path”: the path of the streets. At about the same age, he started to carry a gun, thinking that he needed it for protection. In October of Jason’s freshman year at Thomas Jefferson High School, a small dispute began. As he recalled, a friend had tried to “talk to a girl.” When she said she wasn’t interested, the boy called her a “bitch.” She reported this to her brother, incorrectly naming Jason’s older brother, Jermaine, as the person who had “disrespected” her. This led to “beef”— a word used in East New York to refer to interpersonal disputes—between Jermaine and the girl’s brother, Jesse Thompson. The beef escalated over the ensuing month. Jermaine was not particularly competent by the standards of the streets of East New York. Jason, who was not only loyal but also protective, was brought into the beef on his brother’s side. Jason, who had been cutting class a great deal, remembered going to school on November 25, 1991, with the intention of going to class and attending to school work.10 His brother Jermaine’s midmorning call for help changed that plan. Jermaine needed his brother’s aid to confront Jesse Thompson in the hallway on the third floor of the school. At first the two were fighting, and others were interceding to break it up. Just as the combatants were pulled apart, Jason thought he heard someone say, “Let’s finish it now.” Jason, watching Thompson reach for his book bag, thought that Thompson was planning to get out a gun and shoot his brother and him. Jason pulled out his gun and fired off two shots. “I did what I had to do,” he told us.11 One shot hit a fellow student, Daryl Sharpe, who was

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence nearby in the hallway.12 Another hit Robert Anderson, a teacher who had stepped out of his classroom to investigate a noise that sounded like firecrackers.13 Jason Bentley ran from the scene but was quickly apprehended by the police. Daryl Sharpe was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later.14 Robert Anderson was also taken to a hospital and treated for the wound from which he would eventually recover.15 At Thomas Jefferson High School, Principal Carol Beck called a special assembly of the students and announced what had happened. Students were shocked and dismayed. School was dismissed early. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, offers of help came in from community organizers, religious leaders, and the political and educational leadership of the city. Grief counseling and increased security were immediately instituted. A grief room at the school provided a site for ongoing discussion of the events of November 25. Mourning had a prominent place in the life of the school, antedating this event. A large number of Jefferson students had died due to violence in the community—between 30 and 75 in the preceding five years, the number varying in different reports16—and Principal Beck had wanted a place for young people to talk about the traumatic events that were occurring. In the grief counseling room, Jermaine Henderson, 17, spoke of the moments after the shooting. “[Daryl] kept saying, ‘Get me up.’ The more he talked, he kept losing his voice. He pointed toward his chest. I unbuttoned his collar. There was a hole in his neck…. If he had stepped the other way, that could have been me in the newspaper today.”17 Henderson himself carried a bullet in his head and another in his shoulder from random street violence. One report noted that 50 percent of Jefferson students had wounds from violent injury.18 In our fieldwork 10 years later, people on the street spontaneously lifted their shirts to show us the marks left by violence in the early 1990s.19 Sharpe’s funeral was held on Friday, November 29, at Messiah Baptist Church in Brooklyn. It was reported in The New York Times that Reverend Elijah Pope offered comfort to the mourners, who included some officials from the Board of Education.20 He then commented that many city agencies were missing: “Do we have anyone here from the Mayor’s office? Do we have anyone from the Governor’s office? Anyone from the Police Department? From Lee Brown’s office?” None of those major city agencies was represented. The minister interpreted this as a sign of disrespect and lack of concern. Representatives of various agencies offered excuses to the press. A newspaper report noted that a woman, who said she was Sharpe’s English teacher, read from an essay he had written:

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence I have many visions of my life. I sometimes wish it could always be a good life. I, too, wish to be rich and successful. But when I look beyond the material things and at the world the way it is, I say to myself, “Why am I so selfish? I love feeling good about myself, but I feel so much better when I do a good deed.”21 A second assembly, in memory of Daryl Sharpe, was held on December 9, 1991. At that assembly, senior Shawn Cameron was reported to remark, “It could have been anybody on the floor, but it was one of my closest friends. This crime could have been prevented. If the city would have listened to our cry for help, the gun that the person possesses should have never entered the school.”22 Members of the clergy spoke, as did Chancellor Joseph Fernandez and president of the Board of Education, Carl McCall. The appearance of rap star Doug E. Fresh introduced a note of pandemonium, as girls’ squeals filled the auditorium and undermined the solemnity of the event.23 Jason and his family received little attention in the press, except for an article in The New York Times.24 That story described Jason’s parents, Rudolph and Sally, as hard-working people who lived in an “oasis of neatly tended private homes with red and white aluminum awnings.” They were members of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Reverend Brendan P. Buckley was quoted as saying, “If I knew Jason came from a family that wasn’t a support structure like his is, then I would say, ‘Ah.’ But that’s not the case. What is the lesson here? I don’t know. I would hope that the pain itself would be part of the process of learning. We must pray for an end to the violence.” Buckley’s question was echoed by many. The incident, though shocking and curious, quickly slid into obscurity. The Day the Mayor … Like Jason Bentley, Khalil Sumpter grew up in the violent atmosphere of East New York.25 Like Jason, Khalil was bright and did well in school, falling off at approximately the same age. Donaldson described Khalil’s behavior at Thomas Jefferson High School, noting, “His records show that he is a very smart kid who has decided that academic achievement is counterproductive to his goal of gaining and holding props.”26 Instead, he was described as playing the role of a class clown. In addition to his ambivalence about schoolwork, Khalil had emotional problems, probably beginning with his parents’ separation, which occurred when he was 5. More recently, the stabbing of a friend had affected him deeply. Finally, Khalil, like other youths in East New York, lived cheek-by-jowl with vio

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence lence: as one example, he lived around the corner from the home of Yusef Hawkins, the young black man whose death at the hands of an angry white man had tormented New York City in 1989.27 That winter, Khalil was constantly worried by a long simmering feud with Tyrone Sinkler. The two boys were arrested for a robbery in 1990. Khalil got off, but Tyrone had to spend a year in youth detention. Tyrone believed that Khalil had “ratted him out” to the police. His “beef” with Khalil escalated that school year: he threatened Khalil, and, according to Khalil and his family, called his home and threatened his parents, as well. Against this backdrop of chronic tension, two events on February 25th appeared to have been the immediate catalysts for the shooting. The young men had an angry encounter at school during which Tyrone stepped on Khalil’s shoe, and, later that day, according to Khalil, Tyrone fired some shots at him. Tyrone Sinkler was much bigger than Khalil, and ferocious whereas Khalil was not. Khalil feared for his life, and he feared for the safety of his family. As he explained his situation, “You can put it off, but sooner or later you have to play your cards.” Supplied with a gun by one of his friends, Khalil slipped into the school through a side door.28 He heard that Tyrone and his friend, Ian Moore, were “looking for you,” an East New York euphemism for “search with intent to harm.” Khalil ran into them on the second floor of the school. Fearing that they intended to shoot him, he pulled his gun and shot Tyrone in the head and Ian in the chest. A bystander was quoted in the newspapers as saying, “He was aiming at both, he hit both, he killed both.”29 Like Jason, Khalil fled but was quickly arrested. An eyewitness, whom we shall call Bill, described the scene to us. As he walked in, he saw Ian and Tyrone with some other guys.30 He remembered going up the staircase and seeing Khalil with his friend Dupree. He greeted them and turned to talk to a young woman, who instantly pointed out, “Ooh, there go Ian and Tyrone, ooh, there go Khalil. They about to get into it.” Bill thought the three were going to scuffle. He thought he heard Ian or Tyrone say, “Yo, whaz up” to Khalil. The next thing he knew, Khalil had pulled a gun out of his jacket. As soon as he saw the gun, Bill grabbed the back of his head, started ducking, and ran to his coach’s office for help. The coach was the first adult on the scene. Seconds later, a security guard arrived to secure the crime scene. “I was hysterical because I was that close,” Bill remembered. Despite the intensity of the moment, he pointed out that he did not dwell on it. There were so many murders; these were in many ways indistinguishable from the others. “Back then,” he explained, “people [murdered each other] over a beef. It just wasn’t nothing.”

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence The drama of the day was intensified by the fact that David Dinkins, then mayor of New York City, was on his way to the school. A heightened level of security was in place, and several security guards and police officers were within yards of the site of the killings. In all, 25 security personnel and police officers were on the school grounds.31 The association of the murders and the mayor was burned into people’s minds. In the course of our interviews and conversations, dozens of people, when asked if they remembered the events, began their comments by noting that the mayor was on his way to the school when it happened. That the day had meaning for people was underscored by the comments of one expatriate New Yorker who commented, “Of course I remember that day. That’s the day I decided to leave New York. Not because of those murders, but because of another murder near my son’s school which went unnoticed because everyone was so preoccupied by what had happened with Mayor Dinkins.”32 The mayor was briefed about the murders by Inspector Patrick Carroll, who was then the commander of the 75th Precinct. On his arrival at the school, Dinkins joined Principal Beck for a school assembly. He urged students to choose nonviolence as a way of life. Newsday reported that he told students, “If you know that somebody’s got a weapon, you make sure that you pass that information on. You might think that that’s being a snitch. Well, you consider the alternatives. We’ve got two young people lying dead today and it might not have happened had it not been for that gun.”33 The horrors of the day did not end with the Sumpter shootings. That evening, Marlon Smith, a friend of the two young men who had been killed, shot himself. He died two days later at Brookdale Hospital.34 Marlon was eulogized on March 4, one day after Ian, and two days after Tyrone Sinkler.35 A Thomas Jefferson teacher shared with us that there were actually five funerals that week for Jefferson students. In addition to Ian, Tyrone, and Marlon, he recalled that two others had died in unrelated events.36 The funeral of Ian Moore, held at St. Paul Community Baptist Church, seems to have received the most attention of the five.37 By contrast with the obsequies of Daryl Sharpe, a host of luminaries joined the 1,000 mourners gathered at the church. At the service, a poem written by Ian Moore was read: What I fear began when my grandmother died Obviously, it was the fear of death Death is something I just can’t handle When she died, it was so unbelievable I fear death because I don’t know What will happen when I go

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence It is something I can’t face When I die, will I be thought about? Will my name be shouted out? Death will come at anytime No matter how far you’re up the ladder.38 Mayor Dinkins’s comments emphasized nonviolence. The mayor said, “Ian Moore is done with the trouble of the world, gone home to God.”39 Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, senior minister at St. Paul, remembered that he bristled at that thought.40 In his remarks, Reverend Youngblood pointed out that Ian’s death was not unique. “The tragedy is that what used to be unusual is now usual.”41 He explored the roots of the current state of affairs, and raised the issue of adult responsibility. I heard the mayor say something that shook me. He said that Ian has gone to be with God. That’s frightening. That’s frightening because if Ian has gone to be with God, what’s he going to tell God about us when he gets there? If God has entrusted our children to us and we are his babysitters what are these young children gonna report about us when they stand before God?42 In pointing out that the “unusual is now usual,” Reverend Youngblood was describing the rigors of life in East New York. Before proceeding to investigate the aftermath of the shootings, it is essential to sketch some of the key features of that troubled neighborhood. East New York “Back in the Day” Three features stand out as defining East New York for purposes of this case study. First, it was internally fractured, with clusters of massive housing projects forming an archipelago of mutually antagonistic residences amidst acres of burned and abandoned housing. Second, it was flooded with guns and drugs. Third, it was isolated from the rest of New York. The fracturing of East New York occurred in the late 1960s, as a result of redlining and disinvestment by public and private organizations.43 The area quickly burned down. At its nadir, East New York had 250 acres of vacant land. Much of what burned were private houses and apartment buildings. What remained was the public housing. As depicted in the map (Figure 7-1), 10,549 apartments were built in 11 massive blocks, scattered throughout the East New York-Brownsville area (see Table 7-1). These housing units were always separated in space, but the massive destruction of housing meant that they became separated by dead space, most starkly in the area next to Thomas Jefferson High School, which was universally referred to as the “dead zone.”44

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence FIGURE 7-1 Map of the East New York section of New York City.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence Consequently, when people eventually do get tired in some cases, it’s too late. Let’s do our best to reverse that trend. Khalil’s thoughts are worth considering. The shootings at Jefferson were among the first of the decade of the 1990s. Other shootings in other places take other forms, but reiterate a common theme: the use of the gun as the great equalizer in situations youth perceive to be untenable. Whether the threat is to life or to mental well-being is less the issue than the perception that the threat is intolerable. Khalil’s emphasis on the need for an environment that fosters open communication is worth considering, not only in urban schools, but also in any school affected by this generation gap. How might a different kind of environment have been created at Thomas Jefferson High School? Jefferson, in 1991–1992, was a massive high school, attempting to provide an education to 1,600 severely stressed young people. The school was not out of control at the time of the shootings, but it was not in control, either—in short, it was inadequate for the task it confronted. In a community where teenagers needed a massive amount of contact with adults, the school provided less than a minimum. This is not a fault of the principal, as the deficits lay far beyond anything she might have mustered from the Board of Education or private donors. It is an illustration of society’s capacity to ignore the obvious. It took the desperation of Jason Bentley and Khalil Sumpter, trying to impose order on chaos, to bring some attention to the school. Even then, the attention focused on mechanical solutions, rather than human solutions. Principal Beck rated the retreats as contributing the most to an improved atmosphere in the school. That intervention cost $58,000, whereas the metal detectors that were installed everywhere cost $28 million. If schools are to be functional places, then investment in the creation of nonviolent communities is in order. But it is not enough to say to teenagers, as did Mayor David Dinkins, “You must choose nonviolence.” It is absolutely necessary that adults make it possible for teenagers to live by rules of conduct that permit cooperation, sharing, and mutual respect and trust. Furthermore, adults, inside and outside marginalized communities, must realize that youth will engage with adults only if they perceive that there is hope and a real promise for a future. CONCLUSIONS The shootings at Thomas Jefferson High School were among the first to capture national attention and contributed greatly to the public perception of school safety and youth violence. At the beginning of this case study we cited the Thomas theorem, which holds that what one perceives

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence to be real is real in its consequences. School shootings are especially difficult phenomena to understand, and in searching for solutions one is often forced to distinguish between conflicting perceptions about what aspects of these tragic events are important and what aspects can or should be ignored. For example, are the shootings at Thomas Jefferson fundamentally and conceptually different from those at, say, Columbine because they occurred in a poor, minority, inner-city community? In this case study we have presented a great deal of evidence that East New York was an isolated, impoverished community whose social ecology was dramatically influenced by the crack epidemic and the ready availability of guns. We have argued that elevated levels of interpersonal violence created an atmosphere of ever-present threat, particularly for adolescents. Young men growing up in this environment were forced to adopt attitudes and behaviors that permitted them to live with this high level of threat and to respond to it appropriately. With guns so readily available and with shootings so commonplace, it was inevitable that carrying weapons and using them would be perceived as the most effective strategy to use in interpersonal conflicts. Schools occupy an almost sacred position in American culture. That the social ecology of the community would somehow penetrate the walls of a school and result in shooting fatalities is almost unimaginable to the average American adult. One can easily imagine the school as akin to the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages: a sanctum sanctorum that offered peace, security, safety, and refuge for all who entered. That schools would be the scene of violent death, perpetrated by adolescents with guns killing other adolescents, violates our most fundamental beliefs about schools as sacred places. The truth, of course, is that schools are—to the contrary—intricately and intimately a part of the social ecology of the community. Students are not magically transformed when they step through the doors of the classroom. The conflicts that arise between young people at home, in the streets, and in the classroom always carry the potential for violent, even fatal resolution. For such conflicts to be resolved peacefully, a number of conditions must be present. First and foremost, adults cannot be absent from the lives of the children in the community. Students in East New York during the period of the shootings believed that adults played no significant role in the resolution of interpersonal disputes and conflicts—of the beefs—that are so much a part of growing up. Our respondents were insistent on this critically important fact: when threatened with violence, adults were simply irrelevant.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence It is this perception that is at the core of the problem of youth violence. The location of the violence is less important than the belief of so many young people that they are “on their own two” to create solutions. Thus, it is unrealistic to expect that schools would be spared the horrors of violent, at times fatal confrontations between young people, particularly in a nation with more than 200 million guns in the hands of private citizens. The miracle, in our view, is that there have not been more of them. East New York was therefore, in many respects, the harbinger of events to come. Rather than an isolated example of ghetto violence, it is emblematic of the growing divide between adults and young people, and of the irrelevance of the schools as community institutions with the capacity to assist in the resolution of these problems. It is also clear that schools must become more than buildings occupying space in their communities. They must become active participants in after-school efforts to bring adults and young people together. Thomas Jefferson High School was overwhelmed by the ambient violence in East New York in 1991–1992. Its teachers and administrators were not particularly active participants in any of the community efforts to deal with and prevent this violence. This is not to fault them in any way: Americans have always believed that the proper place for school staff is in the schools, and Jefferson’s personnel were engaged in the business of education. But as we write this report, we are also aware that times have changed. Many American adolescents perceive themselves to be in untenable situations for which violence may offer the only way out. Many have the means to obtain weapons yet do not have the maturity or the capacity to avoid using them if the threat is perceived to be unbearable. In another age, adults had both the time and the ability to invest a considerable amount of time in assisting young people to mature into responsible, contributing members of the community.118 This investment, which social scientist James S. Coleman termed “social capital,” has gradually eroded as adults become more and more involved in working and making money and have assigned more and more responsibility to the schools for socializing their children. This rift between adults, schools, and students must be repaired. There is a danger that the American people will demand that their legislators and their schools develop solutions to youth violence in general and to school violence in particular. The danger lies in the belief that bringing children to adulthood is the responsibility of social institutions. Schools do have a role to play, but that role must be viewed as a partnership between adults in the community and school staff, each of whom has a critical role to play in the lives of young people. Finally, adults in the community, not just parents, need to be more present in the schools. The roles that they can play there can be defined

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence and elaborated in each community where such efforts are undertaken. And school staff need to be more visible, more present in community activities and programs designed to affect the lives of young people. What must be avoided, in our view, is the belief that youth violence can be separated into two components: that occurring outside school and that occurring within it. It is this perception, more than any other, that appears to be especially fraught with peril. At Thomas Jefferson and at other schools that have experienced fatal shootings, a beef from the streets came into the school. The solution, in our view, is to extend the boundaries of the school. There have been numerous examples of school-community collaborations that have been effective in bridging the gap between adult and adolescent roles. These efforts have been funded by public and private foundations and are too numerous to list here. It suffices to note that they exist, and because they exist, society’s task is to disseminate and adapt these interventions more broadly. Youth violence is not a new phenomenon. However, as it becomes increasingly prevalent in the nation’s schools, and as it becomes increasingly the object of public concern, our hope is that the will to translate concern into action will be born. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Without the help of many people, this challenging study could never have been completed in the time allotted. We are grateful, especially, to all the people who agreed to participate in interviews, many of whom went out of their way to provide us with documents, contacts, and other kinds of support. We owe special thanks to Theresa Hunt, at Community Board 5, who introduced us to the area, and to Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, who opened many doors for us. Greg Donaldson and Sam Freedman were generous with their time and insights. Greg also gave us permission to use the map from his book to illustrate this case study. John Dunn, first deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, and Lester Wright, deputy commissioner/chief medical officer of the New York State Department of Corrections, provided enormous assistance in negotiating their respective systems. We are indebted to Reverend Youngblood, Greg Donaldson, Stephen Teich, Lester Wright, Commissioner Patrick Carroll, Jason Bentley, and Khalil Sumpter for their feedback on earlier drafts. At our own institution, John Oldham, Jack Gorman, and Allan Rosenfield provided essential administrative oversight and support. Paul Papagni and David Strauss helped us negotiate the institutional review boards. Richard Miller and Nancy Heim adapted Greg Donaldson’s map for our use as an illustration and as the cover for the preliminary report.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence Administrators too numerous to list here ensured that all the day-to-day problems were resolved. We are deeply appreciative to all of them. Finally, we are grateful to Jason Bentley, Khalil Sumpter, and their families for talking to us about this most difficult period in their lives. Their generosity was fundamental to the success of our effort. NOTES 1   Schmitz, Stevens, Feldman, and Fullilove, unpublished manuscript. 2   Thomas and Thomas, 1928. 3   Engel, 1980. 4   Donaldson G., 1993. 5   Freedman S.G., 1993. 6   Sullivan M., 1981. 7   O’Connor S., 1997. 8   Atlas.ti, Scolari, 1995. 9   This version of the story is Bentley’s. Greg Donaldson’s version—the only other detailed accounting we found—offers a different account of the source of the beef but corroborates both the impression of Jermaine and the course of events Bentley described (pp. 227–232). 10   Fieldnotes. 11   Fieldnotes. 12   Reports of the events vary, including in such basic facts as the spelling of names and the reporting of ages. Daryl, for example, was called “Darrell” in the original police report and in the first articles in The New York Times, but “Daryl” in later articles, as well as in Greg Donaldson’s book. Other facts were inconsistently reported as well. The incident described here was referred to in a number of news articles as a “fight over a book bag.” By contrast, the thrust of people’s descriptions about life in East New York, the presence of guns, and the organization of the youth culture were highly consistent, despite variations in details of stories. 13   Fieldnotes. 14   New York Newsday, 11/26/91. 15   New York Newsday, 11/26/91; Anderson returned to teach at Thomas Jefferson High School but was quickly given an unwanted transfer. When he asked why, he was told it was to avoid “the wrong kind of celebrity” (fieldnotes). 16   New York Newsday, 11/26/91, cited “Since 1987, 50 of the school’s students have been killed or wounded near the Pennsylvania Avenue campus” while The Los Angeles Times, 7/7/91, quoted Principal Beck as saying, “I have lost more than 30 children over four years—stabbed, primarily shot.” Donaldson reported that 75 students had died violently in the previous four years (p. 322). 17   Los Angeles Times, 11/27/91. 18   Time, 3/9/92. 19   Fieldnotes. 20   The New York Times, 11/30/91. 21   The New York Times, 11/30/91. 22   New York Newsday, 12/7/91. 23   Donaldson G., p. 237. 24   The New York Times, 12/2/91. 25   Fieldnotes; Donaldson. Reports agree on the sequence of events and the relationship between Khalil and Tyrone. Khalil’s parents corroborated that there were phone threats,

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence     but the identity of the caller(s) was challenged at trial. There was no independent corroboration that Tyrone fired shots at Khalil. 26   Donaldson G., p. 144. 27   New York Newsday, 2/28/92. 28   There is some controversy about whether or not there were metal detectors in place at the school that day. Principal Beck had been hesitant to have them installed, even after the first shooting. According to several sources, there were no metal detectors at the school that day [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/91; NPR radio, 2/27/91; Bergen County Record, 3/1/92; fieldnotes]. There was general agreement that the presence of metal detectors would not have been an effective deterrent as there are 28 doors to the high school and no way to guard them all. 29   New York Newsday, 2/27/92. 30   Fieldnotes. 31   St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/28/92. 32   Fieldnotes. 33   New York Newsday, 2/27/92. 34   New York Newsday, 2/29/92. 35   New York Newsday, 3/4/92. 36   Fieldnotes. 37   Ian had a nickname, E-Lo, signifying his membership in a gang called the LoLifes. He was memorialized in graffiti throughout the neighborhood which read, “R.I.P., E-Lo” (fieldnotes). 38   Will My Name Be Shouted Out?, p. 290. Ian wrote this poem the year before he died on the occasion of his grandmother’s death. 39   New York Newsday, 3/4/92. 40   Fieldnotes. 41   Johnny Ray Youngblood’s eulogy for Ian Moore. 42   Johnny Ray Youngblood’s eulogy for Ian Moore. 43   Fieldnotes. 44   Fieldnotes. 45   Fieldnotes. 46   Fieldnotes. 47   Fieldnotes. 48   Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/15/93. 49   Fieldnotes. 50   Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/15/93, p. 775. 51   Fieldnotes. 52   Fieldnotes. 53   New York Newsday, 2/28/92. 54   New York Newsday, 2/28/92; Time, 5/25/92; The [Manchester] Guardian, 9/7/92. It is not entirely clear what they meant by “immediately.” 55   New York Newsday, 3/2/92. 56   New York Newsday, 2/28/92. 57   New York Newsday, 2/28/92. 58   Fieldnotes. 59   Time, 5/25/92. 60   Fieldnotes 61   The New York Times, 3/3/92. 62   Fieldnotes. 63   NewYork Newsday, 2/25/93. 64   NewYork Newsday, 2/27/92. 65   New York Newsday, 2/28/92.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence 66   New York Newsday, 6/30/93. 67   Trial record, pp. 783. 68   Trial record, p. 793. 69   Fieldnotes. More recently, the perception of danger was the basis for the successful defense of the police officers who fired 41 shots into the African immigrant Amadou Diallo. 70   Trial record, p. 407. 71   Trial record, p. 408. 72   Trial record, p. 416. 73   Fieldnotes; New York Newsday, 7/1/93. 74   Trial record, p. 573. 75   Fieldnotes. 76   Trial record, p. 880. 77   Trial record, p. 922. 78   New York Newsday, 9/4/93. 79   New York Newsday, 9/8/92. 80   Wallace D., Wallace R., 1998. 81   Rand, 1969. 82   A health area is a geographic unit designated by the Health Department for the collection of vital statistics. 83   The New York Times, 12/2/91. 84   Fieldnotes. 85   New York Newsday, 4/23/91. 86   Fieldnotes, New York Newsday, 4/23/91. 87   New York Police Department statistics. 88   Jacobs J., 1993. 89   Donaldson G., 1993. 90   Donaldson, p. 210. 91   Notorious B.I.G., a rapper from Brooklyn, explained it in the song, “What’s Beef?” This was one of the last songs he wrote before being murdered in what some thought was a beef-fueled feud. 92   Fieldnotes. 93   Fieldnotes. 94   Fieldnotes. 95   Fieldnotes. 96   Fieldnotes. 97   Fieldnotes. 98   Fieldnotes. 99   Time, 5/25/92. 100   The New York Times, 3/3/92 101   Fieldnotes. 102   Fieldnotes. 103   New York Newsday, 11/25/91. 104   Fieldnotes. 105   Fieldnotes. 106   The New York Times, 3/7/92. 107   Fieldnotes. 108   The New York Times, 3/3/92. 109   Trial record, p. 416. 110   Fieldnotes. 111   The New York Times, 6/10/01. 112   Wallace, R ., Fullilove, M. and Flisher, A., 1996; Wallace, R., Flisher, A. and Fullilove, R., 1997; Wallace, R. and Fullilove, R., 1999.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence 113   Granovetter, 1995; people in neighborhoods would not necessarily name the essential and supportive informal connections “weak” ties. 114   Fieldnotes. 115   Wallace R., Fullilove R., 1999. 116   The New York Times, 6/10/01. 117   Landsberg et al., 1999. 118   Coleman, 1987. REFERENCES Atlas.ti 1995 Thousand Oaks, California: Scolari. Board of Education of the City of New York 1992 The Cohort Report: Four Year Results for the Class of 1992 and Follow-ups of the Classes of 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1991–92 Annual Dropout Rate. 1992 The Class of 1992: Final Longitudinal Report: A Three-Year Follow-up Study. Board of Education of the City of New York. 1992 The Class of 1993: Final Longitudinal Report: A Three-Year Follow-up Study. Centers for Disease Control. 1993 Violence-Related Attitudes and Behaviors of High School Students—New York City, 1992. MMWR 42(40):773–777. Champion, S. 1992 “Ego: Firepower,” The [Manchester] Guardian, September 7. Chicago Sun-Times 2000 Deadly Lessons: School Shooters Tell Why. Exclusive Report, October. Chiles, N. 1992 “High School Slaying: Suspect’s Parents Feared for Their Son on NY Streets,” New York Newsday, February 27. Chiles, N. 1992 “Circling the Safety Wagons: Detectors Wanted at High Schools,” New York Newsday, February 28. Coleman, J.S. 1987 Families and schools. Educational Researcher 11.32–38. Collins, T. 1992 “Jefferson HS Boy Dies,” New York Newsday, February 29. Donaldson, G. 1993 The Ville: Kids and Cops in Urban America. New York: Ticknot & Fields. Editorial 1992 “Are We Resigned to the Terror of Handguns?” Bergen County Record. March 1. Engel, G. 1980 The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. American Journal of Psychiatry 137:535–544. Freedman, S.G. 1993 Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church. New York: Harper Collins. Gambardello, J.A. 1992 “High School Slaying: Assassination: 2 Students Shot in Hall; Teen Charged,” New York Newsday, February 27. Goldman, J. 1991 “Lessons in Love Help Class Earn Diplomas in Survival Education,” The Los Angeles Times, July 7.

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence Goldman, J. 1991 “For NY Students, It’s a Time of Grieving Tragedy,” The Los Angeles Times, November 27. Goldman, J. 1992 “Tragedy Mars a School’s Day in the Sun,” The Los Angeles Times, February 27. Granovetter, M. 1995 Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Hevesi, D. 2001 “East New York: A Neighborhood Reborn,” The New York Times, June 10. Hurtado, P. 1993 “HS Slay Suspect Says He Shot for Fear of His Life,” New York Newsday, June 30. Hurtado, P. 1993 “Teen Traumatized,” New York Newsday, July 1. Hurtado, P. 1993 “Leniency Sought for Teen Shooter of Two Schoolmates,” New York Newsday, September 4. Hurtado, P. 1993 “Teen gets Max in HS Slayings,” New York Newsday, September 8. International Association of Chiefs of Police. 1999 Guide for Preventing and Responding to School Violence. Jacobs, J. 1993 The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Modern Library. Kalogerakis, M. 2001 Adolescent Violence in America: A Historical Perspective. The 33rd William Schonfeld Memorial Lecture, American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 24. Laboy, J. 1993 “School’s Rage Gone Year After Killings,” New York Newsday, February 25. Landsberg, G., M. Spellman, and C. Devitt 1999 The East New York: United for Safety Report (A Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention Program). New York University, Ehrenkranz School of Social Work, Institute Against Violence. Funded by the CDC. Lawson, H. 2001 Reformulating the School Violence Problem: Implications for Research, Policy and Practice. International Conference on School Violence and Public Policies, UNESCO, Paris, France, March 6. McCord, C., and H.P. Freeman 1990 Excess mortality in Harlem. New England Journal of Medicine 322:173-177. Menninger, W.W. 1995 Uncontained Rage: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Violence. Sixth Annual Earl J. Simburg Lecture, March 23. Morrow, L. 1992 “Childhood’s End,” Time, March 9. Muir, E., J. Devine, and P. Lucas 2001 Violence in Schools: A Dialogue on Security and Discipline. [Web Page]. Available: www.nyu.edu/education/metrocenter/violence/diaSD.htm. [Accessed March 15, 2001]. National Public Radio 1992 Reported by Alex Chadwick on February 27, 19992. “Teen Held in Brooklyn School Shootings.”

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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence Negron, E. 1991 “At Memorial, Students Aim to Halt Violence,” New York Newsday, December 7. Negron, E. 1992 “400 Students Want Out of Jefferson,” New York Newsday, February 28. Newkirk, P. and P. Hurtado 1992 “Students, Neighbors: Suspect a Timid Kid,” New York Newsday, February 28. Newman, M. 1991 “Two Who Lost Their Way in Urban Wilds,” The New York Times, December 2. New York City Police Department 1992 The Police Department Statistical Report on Complaints and Arrests. O’Connor, S. 1997 Will My Name Be Shouted Out? Reaching Inner City Students Through the Power of Writing. New York: Simon and Schuster. Perez-Rivas, M. 1991 “In Despair, They Unite,” New York Newsday, April 23. Perez-Rivas, M. 1991 “Death Takes No Recess: Gunfire Kills HS Student, Hits Teacher,” New York Newsday, November 26. Perez-Rivas, M. 1992 “Mourn Slain Teen: Dinkins: We Must Stop these Deaths of Children,” New York Newsday, March 4. Pierre-Pierre, G. 1994 “Fewer Killings Tallied in ’93 in New York,” New York Times, January 2. Rand. 1969 Appendix 2, Incidence of Fire Alarms, 7/27/73 Plaintiff’s Exhibit 221 for Identification, Uniformed Firefighters Association lawsuit on the civil rights of fire company closings. Schmitz, S., N. Feldman, and M. Fullilove High-risk Situations and Public Health Practice. Unpublished manuscript. St. Louis Dispatch 1992 “Two Students Gunned Down in Brooklyn School Hallway,” February 28, Sullivan, M. 1981 Getting Paid. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Kings 1993 Criminal Term: Part: 30. The People of the State of New York against Khalil Sumpter. Indictment No. 2511/92. June 29. Tabor, M. 1991 “Mourners of Slain Student Ask, ‘When Does it Stop?’” The New York Times, November 30. Taylor, C.L. 1991 “Dealing with Violence Around Them,” New York Newsday, November 26. Thomas, W., and D. Thomas 1928 The Child in America. New York: AA Knopf. Time 1992 “Thomas Jefferson High School, Brooklyn, New York,” May 25. Vossekuil, B., M. Reddy, R. Fein, R. Borum, and W. Modzeleski 2000 Safe School Initiative: An Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools. U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Treasury. Wallace, D., and R. Wallace 1998 A Plague on Your Houses. London and New York: Verso Press.

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