Thomas Jefferson High School (Brooklyn)

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Thomas Jefferson High School
Jefferson HS 400 Pennsylvania Av jeh.jpg
400 Pennsylvania Avenue


United States
Coordinates40°40′01″N 73°53′41″W / 40.666919°N 73.894841°W / 40.666919; -73.894841Coordinates: 40°40′01″N 73°53′41″W / 40.666919°N 73.894841°W / 40.666919; -73.894841
Funding typePublic

Thomas Jefferson High School was a high school in the East New York section of Brooklyn, New York. It was the alma mater of many people who grew up in the Great Depression and World War II and rose to prominence in the arts, literature, and other fields.[1] In 2007, the New York City Department of Education closed the school and broke it into several small schools because of low graduation rates.[2]


Thomas Jefferson High School, located at 400 Pennsylvania Avenue, had its groundbreaking in 1922 with New York City mayor John Francis Hylan officiating.

Elias Lieberman (1883-1969), American poet, writer and educator, known for the 1916 poem "I Am an American,” served as principal from 1924 to 1940.[3] Alumni of his time include movie star and comedian Danny Kaye (who did not graduate) and songwriter Jack Lawrence. Additionally, Thomas Jefferson was one of seven public high schools in New York to receive a M. P. Moller pipe organ in 1926. The instrument was removed and discarded in the 1990s.[4]

A relatively prosperous lower middle class community throughout the interwar epoch, the surrounding neighborhood of East New York faced a host of socioeconomic problems in the mid-to-late 20th century, including widespread unemployment and crime stemming from a lack of private investment (exemplified by redlining, mortgage discrimination and the gradual diminution of remunerative manufacturing jobs) amid the segregated wave of postwar suburbanization. In 1991, Darryl Sharpe, a ninth-grade student who was an innocent bystander, was shot to death in the school. Another youth was trying to help his brother in a fistfight, drew a gun, and opened fire in the crowded hallway. The three shots killed the 16-year-old student and critically wounded a teacher, Robert Anderson, who was approaching to intervene. At the time, education officials in New York called it "one of the school system's worst crimes" and noted that besides an accidental shooting in 1989, it was the first killing of a student in a school in more than a decade.[1][5][6] The 14-year old shooter, Jason Bentley, was sentenced to three to nine years in prison.[7][circular reference] Bentley was on parole for this homicide on June 22, 1997, when Luis Cabral Corcino was murdered in a robbery. Bentley was convicted of murder and was sentenced to 35 years to life.[8]

In 1992, a 15-year-old student at the school shot two other students, who died thereafter, in the hallway an hour before then-mayor David Dinkins was supposed to tour the school.[9] The shooter, 15-year-old Kahlil Sumpter, was sentenced to between 623 and twenty years in prison. He was released on parole in 1998.[7][circular reference]

In 2007, the New York City Department of Education closed the school and broke it into several small schools because of low graduation rates.[2]

In the photograph above, the main entrance of TJHS is clearly engraved with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, "May reverence for the laws become the political religion of the nation." For 90 years students, and perhaps faculty, have wondered why the authorities were unable to find an appropriate quotation from Thomas Jefferson himself to grace the entrance to his namesake school.


Since 2007, the school building is known as the Thomas Jefferson Educational Campus, and is the home of:[2]

  • The High School for Civil Rights
  • The FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety
  • The Performing Arts and Technology High School
  • The World Academy for Total Community Health High School

In 2015, two of the new schools were graduating about 70 percent of their students and the other two have graduation rates in the 50s.[9] In New York City overall in 2015, just over 78 percent of New York State students who entered high school in 2011 graduated on time according to state officials. However, the percentage is 88 percent for white students and only 65 percent for black and Hispanic students during the same time period.[10]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (November 26, 1991). "16-Year-Old Is Shot to Death In a High School in Brooklyn". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Thomas Jefferson Educational Campus". May 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  3. ^ "Dr. Elias Lieberman Dies at 85; Poet Wrote 'I Am an American'; Retired Executive of Schools Here Was Author of 4 Volumes of Verses". The New York Times. 1969-07-14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  4. ^ "Thomas Jefferson High School". New York City American Guild of Organists. Retrieved January 3, 2010.
  5. ^ Newman, Maria (28 November 1991). "Where Hallway Shootings Erupted, Teachers Are Afraid". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Nation IN BRIEF : NEW YORK : Student Killed in School Shooting". Los Angeles Times. 26 November 1991.
  7. ^ a b List of school shootings in the United States#CITEREFCrews2016
  8. ^ People v Bentley on Justitia
  9. ^ a b Kolodner, Meredith (September 29, 2015). "Once sold as the solution, small high schools are now on the back burner". The Hechinger Report. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  10. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (January 11, 2016). "New York City's High School Graduation Rate Tops 70%". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Monet's Palate Lifestyle Brand Adds Wine to its Offerings". Forbes.
  12. ^ "Thomas Jefferson (Brooklyn, NY) Baseball". The Baseball Cube. Retrieved February 13, 2011.
  13. ^ Johnson, Erskine (January 3, 1965). "Did Cathleen Throw Tomato?". The Tennessean. Tennessee, Nashville. p. 105. Retrieved 9 February 2019 – via
  14. ^ "Zaslofsky, Max: Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum". December 7, 1925. Retrieved February 13, 2011.

External links[edit]