First and last words: Apprehending the social and legal facts of an urban high school shooting

John Hagan, Paul Hirschfield, Carla Shedd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Urban school violence is common and when it becomes fatal constitutes a neglected theoretical counterpoint to highly publicized rural and suburban school shootings. Joseph White shot and killed Delondyn Lawson and injured two other youths at Tilden High School in the last fatal Chicago school shooting nearly a decade ago. This event was portrayed in extensive news coverage as random and senseless and by a jury trial as a first-degree homicide that was inexcusable as self-defense. Journalism often is described as the first draft of history, and trials often are seen as the more definitive record. Yet neither journalism nor trials are comprehensive sources of social history, especially of social conflict. The authors demonstrate that journalistic accounts can prejudge and stereotype lethal school violence, that trials often further depict these conflicts in legally authoritative but restricted and misleading ways, and that an exclusive focus on rural and suburban settings obscures a broader theoretical understanding of deadly school shootings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-254
Number of pages37
JournalSociological Methods and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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