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Potomac Confidential

Marc Fisher
Post Metro Columnist
Thursday, February 17, 2005; 12:00 PM

Potomac Confidential fills the midday lull with discussion by Metro columnist Marc Fisher of the latest news and a rigorous slicing and dicing of the issues that define who we are and where we live.

This Week's Columns:

Marc Fisher (The Washington Post)

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For Parents, A Hard Lesson On Drugs (Post, Feb. 17)

Gov. Respect Should Try The Golden Rule (Post, Feb. 15)

When Sexuality Undercuts A Family's Ties (Post, Feb. 13)

In his weekly live.

show, Fisher veers wildly from serious probing to silly prattle, and is open to topics local, national, personal and more.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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Marc Fisher: Welcome aboard, folks. Lots of comment out there on this week's columns--the Sunday piece on Alan Keyes' daughter Maya finding herself tossed out of the house for being, as she puts it, "a liberal queer;" Tuesday's offering on Gov. Bob Ehrlich and the rumor peddling against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley; and today's column on parent reaction to drug-related expulsions at St. John's high school in the District.
We'll get right to that, after the Yay and Nay of the Day:
Yay to Washington area commuters, who say in this week's Post poll that they're willing to pay tolls for new roads. But oddly enough, the region is split just about evenly over the use of adjustable toll pricing to spread traffic out beyond the usual rush hours. Why not create incentives toward voluntary action to ease congestion?
Nay to the Virginia legislature for the audacity many lawmakers are showing by presuming to clarify Thomas Jefferson's wording in the state constitution. Jefferson's words on religious freedom aren't good enough for some of the Bible-thumpers in Richmond, so they've worked up new language to guarantee the right to pray in schools. Let's move on, shall we?
Your turn....

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding your column today, the one part I found disturbing is that the school "acted on information gleaned from other students". In other words, some kids ratted out on the others. Geez, that kind of behavior never would have happened when I was in high school more than a few years ago. Kids used to stick together, as it should be. A little bit of pot is no big deal. It is NOT a gateway drug. I know all kinds of people that blew a little bit of weed in high school and today they're all productive members of society -- employed, parents, churchgoers, homeowners, voters, etc. The school overreacted, period.

Marc Fisher: Why shouldn't kids help keep their school safe? Why shouldn't kids be open with their teachers? Why is it bad to "rat out" kids who are brazenly bringing drugs onto campus? Sure, kids are going to get high, but don't you think bringing drugs to school is a step beyond doing something illicit on the weekend, far from school?

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Washington, D.C.: The Catholic high school in Chicago I attended in the 1970s had a policy not unlike St. John's: if a student was caught in possession of and/or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at school or at a school function, he was kicked out. When I was a senior, I wrote an editorial against the policy, suggesting it was, um, un-Christian. In my subsequent dressing down from the principal, I learned that my school, and others which had similar policies, also had an agreement that, if a kid were kicked out of one school for a drug or alcohol offense, another would take him. Even so, I'm still uncomfortable with the automatic boot. It's hard to reconcile zero tolerance with forgiveness. (And aren't we quick to point out the lack of tolerance among radical Muslims?)

Marc Fisher: I agree that we're way too quick in this society to adopt zero tolerance policies that the adults never had to deal with when we were kids. And the ZT policies are generally preposterously unthinking and brittle. After all, why shouldn't a kid be allowed to have a nail clipper at school? Or ibuprofen? Or any number of other things that are now considered contraband.
But schools should be places where neither kids nor parents need to worry about drugs being around, and I don't see what's wrong with a school saying that on this particularly sensitive and dangerous point, folks, this is the line, don't cross it or else.

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Vienna, Va.: I hope one of your "Yays" is to St. John's. I've always found you to be a bit of a curmudgeon, but I was glad that you stuck to your curmudgeonly ways on the issue of drugs in school. As you point out, this was a private school, not a public school. These kids are not being kicked out of SCHOOL -- just this particular institution. They are not being denied their right to an education. The father you spoke with kept going on about how, in a situation like this, it's better to EDUCATE the teen.

Wouldn't you say his daughter ("I was just holding it for a friend" -- sure you were) has received quite an education about the consequences of illegal drug use at this point?

Marc Fisher: Yes--and note that these were seniors, whose applications to college were already on their way. So while the kids' seniors years have been dealt a big shock, their futures are not going to be devastated by this move. And yet the school gets the bonus of having sent the rest of the student (and parent) body an unmistakable message. I'm hearing from lots of folks today that that sort of stiff reminder served them well in their own wayward youths.
Sincerely, Your Humble Curmudgeon. (I've always wanted a title that ends in -geon and it sure as heck wasn't gonna be surgeon.)

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Arlington, Va.: For the record, I went to a Catholic high school in the 1970s, i.e., before "war" was declared on drugs, and our school's policy was quite clear then: zero tolerance.

BTW, does the mother really buy her daughter's story that the marijuana in her locker wasn't hers?

Marc Fisher: At my school, the drug policy depended largely on who you were and what your parents did. Which is not exactly the best message to send to kids, even if it might reflect the standards out in the real world.
As for the parents, you wouldn't believe how eager many parents are to believe that their darling is innocent--Never underestimate the power of denial in life. That said, some of the parents in this case seem to have accepted that their kids were in trouble and needed to have the brakes slammed on for them. Still, a parent's instinct is to fight for his kid.

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NW Washington, D.C.: My son was also released and for having a drug paraphernalia in his car. His first offense. After 3 1/2 years, not to mention $35,000 later and no diploma. We worked hard for our children to have a Catholic education. Now what did the school teach them, no forgiveness, we could care less about your education, go elsewhere! St. John's committed a crime to the children. They are not educators! It's about the image.

Marc Fisher: The best point the parents in this case have made is that a school has an obligation to use student errors as a learning experience and not merely as an occasion for punishment. Certainly in the case of speech issues and pranks, education should take precedence over punishment. But in the case of drugs, which are, after all, illegal, the balance shifts the other way.

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Bowie, Md.: I think the parents are trying to pass the buck. Yes, it was prevalent in our days, but not acceptable in todays world. The parents are responsible for teaching their children, and providing the support.

Marc Fisher: Right--for school administrators, the continuing surprise is how vehement parents are about undermining the authority of the school.

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Mr. Fisher, Sir....: With all due respect...you're nuts. Experimenting with chiba is a phase kids go through. To have a zero-tolerance policy during the most impressionable periods of their lives is either short sighted or myopic. Take your pick. Educate them. Don't throw them to the wolves...if it becomes a recurring problem, with repeat offenses, then I'd agree. But to toss a kid whose 1st offense involves less than a gram is just idiotic. It's a teaching moment, use it as such.

Marc Fisher: I agree that kids are going to try stuff and I don't have a problem with that. If these kids had used drugs at home or out on their own somewhere, I'd be with you. But isn't it a particularly egregious thumbing of the nose at school, parents and authority in general to bring drugs to school?

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Perfect, Tenn.: "I've always wanted a title that ends in "-geon" and it sure as heck wasn't gonna be surgeon."

"Stool pigeon" comes to mind ...

Marc Fisher: There are all sorts of great names for stoolies and rat finks and so on, but we're one hugely conflicted society on this issue, aren't we? I mean, here we are passing laws to protect whistle blowers and here we see reporters going to jail to protect sources who rat out their superiors for wrongdoing, yet there's still a grassroots sense that it's somehow wrong to blow the whistle on folks who are doing wrong.

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Lexington Park, Md.: Good for the school for expelling the kids with pot. It's amazing how quickly parents jump to defend their kids, instead of realizing that they are boneheads at best, criminals at worst. For instance the, "I was just holding it for a friend defense." Please, spare me. We all know people who use drugs, how many of us let them store their drugs in our house/office/car? Really either she's using or needs more than a private school education to understand the world.

Maybe instead of spending the time suing everything that moves, these parents should start figuring out who their kids are hanging out with and what they're doing in their free time. Come home with too man packs of Oreos? Time to have a chat.

Marc Fisher: Sounds right to me.

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College Park, Md.: What about St John's letting kids who get caught drunk on or off campus stay at the school and graduate. Alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21?

Marc Fisher: So just because a school is inconsistent means that it should give up on setting any standards at all?

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm with the school on this one. If you have a rule, it must be clear, it must apply to all, and it must have a real consequence for violation. My daughter goes to the University of Virginia, which has a single sanction honor system and requires that students pledge never to lie, cheat, or steal. The penalty in all cases proved before a student court is expulsion. It works pretty well and I think the great majority of students really subscribe to it and appreciate its benefits.

Marc Fisher: Honor systems do indeed work very well, as I found in college, but they are wholly dependent on the obligation that every student signs onto requiring them to inform the honor committee of any infraction they see. Now obviously, the great majority of students sign that pledge and never turn in anyone, even though cheating is fairly common. So there is that flaw I talked about earlier, that huge contradiction in our views about ratting out others.

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Alexandria, Va.: While agree with a ZT policy on drugs, alcohol and violence in schools, your characterization that "while the kids' seniors years have been dealt a big shock, their futures are not going to be devastated by this move" is patently incorrect. The colleges to which they have applied will have to receive notice of the expulsion and probably the reason. Many, especially if they are good schools with 10 kids applying for every one spot, will look over a kid who has been kicked out of school for drugs, while they might not have the same reaction for a suspension, etc.

That being said, kids need to learn that they can't do anything they want and that there are consequences. Really, couldn't they have kept their weed off-campus. (and I note that the one kid who had his car taken away by his parents had apparently gotten it back b/c he was caught with weed in the car - way to stick to your guns mom and dad!)

Marc Fisher: Well, I initially thought exactly what you say about the colleges being informed, but the parents tell me that the school assured them that those who already had their college applications in would scoot along without word of any of this reaching the colleges. There's a lot of that sort of thing that goes on out there--high schools frequently hold back on telling colleges about stuff that happens in senior year. That's been going on forever, everywhere. And it's the same issue we're talking about here, in a way--what is the obligation to inform on others and when is it better to keep things quiet?

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SW D.C.: "Experimenting with chiba is a phase kids go through." To whom is this poster referring? That's an awfully universal statement! I didn't ever experiment, and neither did my friends. Our crowd wasn't "geeks" or any other label, just normal kids who weren't interested in drugs.

Marc Fisher: The numbers on this have been, in gross terms, fairly steady for decades now: About half of kids experiment with drugs and half don't.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Sorry, I am going to have agree with Mark on this issue. I'm 26, but when it comes to drugs and stuff of the sort, a hard line must be taken when it comes to teenagers. For the previous poster who noted that marijuana is not a gateway drug -- it is. My brother who is now 17 really derailed much of his teenage life by using marijuana and found himself in jail numerous times because of his need for the drug which lead to truancy, further drug use, thefts, hanging with the wrong crowd and several thousand dollars of my parents money in lawyer and court fees.

Now will these kids who were booted out of an exclusive private school suffer, probably not, but the message the administrators were trying to send is that drugs and questionable behavior will not be accepted in their environment. If they were a few years older, they'd have to face the prospect of police, having a record and facing the legal system without their parent's help. Kudos to St. John's for taking action, because today a lot of kids don't know the consequences of their actions, no matter how small they might think it may be initially.

Marc Fisher: Nicely put--thanks.
More on this in a bit, but first a look at some other topics on your minds....

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Bowie, Md.: Marc, on a different subject.

The NHL formally cancelled the entire season yesterday.
I must admit, I hadn't really noticed the lack of hockey on TV.

Marc Fisher: There's at least a decent chance that the No Hockey League will be gone for a very long time, like maybe forever, and I'd be sort of pleased to see that happen, not because hockey's a lesser sport (though it is awfully hard to follow on TV), but because it just might send a little teeny message to the other pro sports that they need some very basic structural reform. But don't hold your breath.

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Washington, D.C.: A different topic, perhaps? How about the ridiculous (surprise, surprise) Virginia legislature which seeks to make the Founding Fathers spin in their graves by trying to make prayers in school a right.

What are they putting in the water down there?

Marc Fisher: It's an election year, and this is how the ruling Republicans want to send the message to voters that their values are being reflected by one party and one party only. It may be a misreading of the Virginia electorate--after all, this is the state that elected Mark Warner largely because he was a moderate who preached that the bottom line--jobs and the economy--were more important than the hot button social issues. Yet there's no doubt that these very divisive issues will be at the heart of this year's governor's race, and the issues do cut in favor of the GOP.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Marc,

First off, kind of sad what is going on the Keyes family. I guess blood is not thicker than water in this case, but is this man so conservative in his beliefs that he'd be willing to disown his daughter?

Before I go, aren't you finally glad to see the Nationals in spring training? Now it looks like the dream is becoming a reality.

Marc Fisher: Nats: Boswell's columns over the past week have given us just a first taste of what we've been missing for all these years. Reading him this summer promises to be one of the great joys in the history of sports journalism--one of the best baseball writers of the past century finally liberated to cover a team of his own on a daily basis. We should jack up the price of the paper to $5 a day just for this.
Keyes: The contrast between how Alan Keyes has handled this and how Dick Cheney has spoken about his daughter is very telling. Even top Republicans tell me that Keyes is just beyond the pale on this.

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Washington, D.C.: I enjoyed your column on Maya Keyes and was just astounded when I saw her on TV how young she looked and sounded, yet in print, her words came across as a bit more "mature" than she appears (visually) to be.

With all the brew-ha-ha over gay parents adopting children in Virginia, do you think the commonwealth will seek to prohibit ultra-conservative Christian parents from doing the same, lest they "turn" gay like Maya Keyes, Mary Cheney, and Candice Gingrich?

Marc Fisher: Haha--The interesting bit about the trendlet of kids of very conservative pols coming out as gay is the challenge it poses to the notion that it is childraising methods rather than genetics that determines sexuality. Are we suddenly going to see these prominent social conservatives blaming themselves for their kids turning out to be homosexuals? I somehow do not think so.

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SW D.C.: Any comment on the two letters to the editor from lawyers for the defense in the trial on which you were a juror?

Marc Fisher: The Free for All page printed a couple of letters last week from lawyers involved in the DC Superior Court case in which I was a juror. The letters said it was the jurors' fault, not the judge's, that the trial suffered long delays and the defense lawyer questioned the dedication of our jury.
Their letters were highly amusing, especially given that I have heard identical tales about that judge's sloooowwww ways from both prosecutors and defense lawyers alike, and from jurors in cases both before and after mine. Our quick verdict resulted from the strong evidence in the case and the ludicrous nature of the defense. Many of us on the jury were concerned about whether we were too much swayed by the obvious competence gap between the excellent prosecutor and the less than excellent defense lawyer, so we held an extra informal vote to see if we would have come to the same verdict even if there'd been a strong defense lawyer. Luckily, the case was so clear that we were confident we would still have come to the same verdict.

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Arlington, Va.: Marc, you are plugged into radio. Which station will carry the Nationals this season?

Marc Fisher: I wish I knew. Here we are less than two weeks from the first spring training game and we don't know where the Nats will be on the radio, or even if they will be.
This team needs to get serious about creating new bonds with fans, and getting the games on radio and TV is essential to that (and to the financial future of the team.)
Sadly, the Nats seem to be giving serious consideration to putting the games on FM, which would make them the first baseball team to do that--a huge mistake that represents a basic misunderstanding of how baseball fans use the radio. Baseball is a daily sport that accompanies people in a wide geographic area around the home city. FM signals do not reach out into the areas that will support this team--if people are given a chance to connect with it.

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Re: Virginia: "It's an election year"? Are you kidding me? Last year was an election year. When do politicians get to stop using that as an excuse and start legislating like they mean it?

Marc Fisher: The governor and the entire legislature are up for election this year. There were no statewide elections in Virginia last year.

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Arlington, Va.: You've got to hand it to the Virginia Assembly. Now we have a right to pray that teenagers would just pull up their pants.

Marc Fisher: Bah-dum-bum. Nice one.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Re: the other universe
I'm trying to decide what is stranger -- that Michael Jackson has a 500-pound body guard to carry around his umbrella or the fact that his defense plans to call 366 witnesses:

"Jackson's defense-witness list included a few celebrated names from the entertainer's past -- Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones -- and others that seemed drawn from a People magazine grab bag: Jay Leno, Stevie Wonder, Kobe Bryant and psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller."
Quoted from:
Jackson's Witness List Is a Curious Who's Who (Post, Feb. 15)

Don't these charges concern alleged activities with ONE boy? Did these activities happen in a crowded football stadium?

And they wonder why some people try to dodge jury duty.

Marc Fisher: If you were Jacko's lawyers, you'd try the same nonsense. After all, it worked for OJ. Delay, silliness and celebrity are your friends if you're the defense.

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G'burg (home)/SW D.C. (work): Board approved Dulles toll road hike this morning. Think Metro to Tyson's will improve traffic on 66?

Marc Fisher: Minimally, if at all. Transit doesn't improve congestion on the roads, just as extra lanes and new highways don't improve congestion. What they do is slow down the rate of growth of traffic and that's the best anyone can hope for. Metro is a proven success at doing that--just imagine what roads and development would be like in this region with all those hundreds of thousands of additional cars on the roads if Metro riders had to get behind the wheel every day.

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Tolls, commutes, etc...: I'm all for all of it. One thing that tires me is the whining out of ex-urbanites on this stuff. Put simply, no one placed a gun to your head and made you tear up perfectly good farmland to sprawl all over the place. If you want to live halfway to W.Va., deal.

For many of us, we are hosed outside of our own choice. Being in the technology game, no CEO came up and asked me for a vote when they all loaded up Herndon and Reston for their "tech ghetto" offices, while conveniently staying downtown themselves. Its about time the real costs of this sprawl were dumped down on those who cause it ... the businesses and exurbanites. It adds insult to injury to be forced into a hell commute to the tech ghetto from the city, and then be overtaxed to support the subsidized infrastructure that causes the sprawl.

When businesses eat increased toll, have to adjust their hours of operation to employees who refuse to pay up for rush hour, etc. ... maybe we'll start rationalizing our development patterns here.

Marc Fisher: Right--the more painful the solution, the more likely it is to wake people up and push them into making different choices about where they live and work. But notice that the poll also found that people, for all our whining, really don't mind their commutes that much. In fact, they kind of like spending all that time in the car. That's the dirty secret of traffic congestion--a lot of folks actually cherish that hour in the car by themselves.

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Bethesda, Md.: Okay, enough ganja, how about Bobby Haircut?

Marc Fisher: No apology yet. Maybe when he's ready to say he's sorry for what his employee did to O'Malley, the governor will call up the banned Baltimore Sun reporters to offer the scoop. And maybe the sun will take a day off tomorrow and rise again on Saturday.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Do you ever hear people complain how D.C. has no personality? What do you think of that?

Marc Fisher: You ask this from a neighborhood known as Foggy Bottom? Asked and answered.

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Yay of the Day: My yay's/nay's of the day: Yay to Jim Graham and the other council members (Fenty, Brown, Mendhleson) for giving a verbal dressing down to several developers and attorneys and DCRA for exploiting the 95/5 loophole and yesterday's council hearings.

Nay of the day to ABRA and the ABC Board for their crappy handling of liquor licenses citywide (not just the Club U license). Liquor licenses are not an inherent right of a business owner. Everyone deserves a second chance but in the world of the ABC Board, it's usually a second, third, fourth, tenth chance.

Marc Fisher: Just when you thought that shootings and the like at a club might lead to some sort of action by the city, it turns out that there's a nice secret deal to keep the club going so that the city can get some back payments it was due. How nice.

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Washington, D.C. expat in Philly: Marc,

I went to a private high school in DC not all that long ago, one that has for years had a reputation as being full of kids who engage in all manner of illicit activity-- including some well within earshot of the school building.

I wasn't one of them, but I realized around my senior year or so that it was pretty close to impossible to stop the whole thing. There was another incident of drug stuff at my school last fall and one of the main reasons why there was a really huge stink made about it, as far as I can tell, was that two of the people involved were children of teachers at the school.

I wonder if you agree with me that this whole thing a pretty big horse to get a lasso around, and I also wonder how you as a parent have tried to channel the inevitable rebellious streak that always comes up in kids.

Marc Fisher: I want kids to rebel and to push the limits and to try all sorts of stuff, but of course like any parent I also want them to be safe, mainly for my own peace of mind. The answer is to be totally upfront with kids and make it clear that there are certain rules they have to obey and certain rules that they should try to undermine. It's no different from the rest of life--it's all about finding some sense of balance.
Schools are indeed in a tough spot on these issues, but that's mainly because parents undermine schools left and right, and parents are often the real problem here, enabling and even encouraging kids to try to be cool and popular and all that nonsense.

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Washington, D.C.: My son had a friend who was caught with pot in his locker in MARCH of his senior year. He was in a public school and the COPS were called to search his locker. He was expelled without an appeal. He was home schooled in three subjects for the rest of the year. And truly, the County didn't even want to do that. He got his diploma-no graduation. And is now happily ensconced in college and doing quite well. My message is twofold. This is NOT the end of the world for these kids. And the school could have called the police but did not. Have we discussed how drugs are illegal and these kids are lucky not to have been arrested?

Marc Fisher: Right--schools will often do quite a bit to protect the future of these kids even as they are trying to make a show of punishing them. It's all about setting a tone and sending a message.

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Springfield, Va.: I'm glad the kids were expelled from St. Johns. Maybe they can enroll at Annandale High where my son goes. The kids and their parents can concern themselves less about the drugs and alcohol and more about getting beaten up or killed by gang members.

Marc Fisher: Ouch.

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NW Washington, D.C.: I understand Silver Springs remarks, but do you think it was fair to use these kids as examples? They are not guinea pigs and nor do they need to set an example. The school sets an example for others to follow. And yes, FYI, these kids have suffered. No school, private, catholic or public wanted to take them that easy! Teach them don't cast them aside. Maybe you need religion!

Marc Fisher: Quite true--no school wants to take another's problems. But some of these kids have landed in public schools where they are, according to their parents anyway, doing well enough. Face it--it's spring semester of senior year; they weren't going to be hitting the books much wherever they might be.

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Virginia: Unless the school actually makes up phony last semester transcripts indicating that the students were at school earning great grades, UVA at least, would revoke acceptances. This is a harsh lesson in reality that some students learn the hard way. Some colleges make all acceptances contingent upon the student not only graduating without incident, but with the same excellent grades that got them accepted. This isn't a rumor; I know two students who couldn't believe they weren't going to go to Charlottesville after all when they thought they'd just party though their last semester of high school. What a shock.

Marc Fisher: That does happen and you're right to bring it up. But my sense from talking both to high school college counselors and to college admissions officers is that it's far more common for senior year indiscretions to be minimized or suppressed.

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Downtown, D.C.: I guessing you refer to Governor Ehrlich as Bobby Haircut because he actually has hair left to cut, not like yourself. How about a cute name for Lt. Governor Steele?

Marc Fisher: I'm open to nominations on a good moniker for Steele.
On the governor's hair, I cop to that--yes, I admire that it is thick and lustrous. I just wish he didn't go in for the vaguely totalitarian sideburn cut and the boyish mop look. Though it is very much of a piece with his overall character--thus the apparent popularity of the nickname.

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Re: Increased Tolls: I'm all for 'em even though the Greenway and the Toll Road are my main ways to get to work. I'm out in Ashburn, moved there while working in Herndon, so a pretty good commute until lay-offs. For the record, I will never, ever work in D.C. again. I try my best to work west of the Beltway. I'm doing my best to live where I work. People who think that that's a cure-all need to get over themselves though. Two-earner families often contain one work-near-home and one massive commute. With the disloyalty of corporations these days, the perfect commute today can be a pink slip tomorrow. What, we should move house every time we're laid off around here?

Marc Fisher: You hit on the dilemma and yes, the weakness in the smart growth philosophy. It's far easier to say than to do when it comes to choosing where to live. On the other hand, if you figure you're going to be commuting no matter where you plop down to live, it might as well be in a place that has all the amenities and joys of a vibrant, densely settled spot.

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Calvert Cty, Md.: Sorry, I don't see why I should accept the blame for the guy who lives in the city and works outside of it. Why am I (an exurbanite by choice)at fault because he (like I) lives far from his job? As for the sprawl thing, I'm just happy (after years in P.G. county) to live where there are good schools, no shootings, clean streets and neighbors who know each other. Oh, and I love 40 minutes in the car each way -- I don't let crazy drivers bug me, and it's pretty restful that way.

Marc Fisher: At least you admit that you like the commute. What gets me is all the folks who complain incessantly about the drive and then move even further away from their jobs.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: "Minimally, if at all. Transit doesn't improve congestion on the roads, just as extra lanes and new highways don't improve congestion."

Marc, you and the guy who used to write John Kelly's repeat this mantra all the time, with regard to roads like I-270. I used to commute that road in the late 80s when it was two lanes each way. With no bottlenecks, it was half an hour from Shady Grove Road to the split.

The difference with the new lanes is night and day. Yes, the road is congested, but WE'RE MOVING TOGETHER down that road, instead of doing 30 half the time and zero the other half.

Marc Fisher: Yes, my sense is that 270 was way overexpanded. Sure, it can be rough in rush hour, but the rest of the time, it's like a racetrack. (See, I saved that baby for the end, so you have a full week to seethe over my cavalier statement and next week you can really let me have it.)

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22031: All of these kids at the school had their chance to think about it BEFORE getting involved with drugs in the first place. It's been beaten into their brains since they were practically infants that DRUGS ARE ILLEGAL. They had their chance, and they blew it. Let them suffer the consequences.

Marc Fisher: That's one view, and here's the other....

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Washington, D.C.: What I don't understand is why didn't the school bring the kids in and talk with them with parents in the same room and give them a warning? Didn't they care about the kids and how it may have affected them and others?

Marc Fisher: And that will have to wrap it up for this week. Thanks for all the contributions and sorry to those I couldn't get in. Back next week.

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