A controversial form asking teachers at Northwood High School in Silver Spring to report grades of the school's 156 black students touched off a spate of rumors and scattered student walkouts last week.
Nortwood Principal Eugene R. Smoley spent most of a day meeting with students and faculty to explain the "informational" intent of the form, which was withdrawn from circulation after faculty protests against it surfaced.
The form was distributed after a special Montgomery County Board of Education report said that black students who make up 8 per cent of Northwood's 1,630 student, "are not being treated fairly by some teachers, or are not working up to their abilities or expectations."
The report was produced in March after the parents of several black children at the school sent a telegram directly to school superintendent Charles Bernardo complaining of alleged discrimination at Northwood.
One teacher who asked not to be identified said she feared that she and other teachers would somehow be "punished" if it turned out that black students in their classes were receiving lower grades than white students.
Several white students who also requested anonimity said they feared the form might cause "reverse discriminationM" in which black students would be graded more easily than white students.
None of the more than a dozen black and white students interviewed thought that racial discrimination existed as an organized pattern at the school.
School board spokesman have not identified the parents who sent the telegram to Bernardo last January. A five-member task force that investigated the charges produced a 35-page report stating that blacks received fewer A and B grades than white studens, and more C, D and failing grades, according to school board spokesman Ken Muir.
The report recommended hiring guidance counselors "sympathetic" to black students, changes in school selection procedures for advanced placement classes, and "better communications" between parents and teachers.
Students said some teachers had told them that white teachers would be "forced out" or "encouraged" to transfer to make room for more black teachers. Principal Smoley denied saying this, though he said he wanted to raise the proportion of minority teachers from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, to parallel the student minority population.