It was not the choice of pie - chocolate cream - but the choice of target - vice principle - that has made such a mess of Connie Schillreff's last month at Broad Run High School.
Schillreff, an 18-year-old senior, might have aimed her pie at a classmate or perhaps even a teacher and still have been able to go to the senior prom and attend ceremonies.
Instead, on the morning of the senior class-faculty breakfast and in full view of a large number of witnesses, she pushed a pie into the face of vice principal and now acting principal Jean Bibb.
"I don't think this is very amusing," Schillreff quoted Bibb as saying, and nobody has been laughing much since.
Bibb's only comment now is: "All questions concerning the incident are to be referred to the division superintendent."
After the May 3 incident, officials in the Eastern Loudoun County school barred Schillreff from school grounds and functions. She is to be tutored at home for the rest of the term and her diploma will be mailed to her.
According to several sources, school officials approached the Loudoun County commonwealth's attorney to discuss the possibility of filing assault and battery charges against Schillreff but that idea was dropped. That charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
"We agree that what she did is wrong," Schillreff's mother, Barbara said yesterday, "but the punishment is too extreme. It's just too harsh. It was stupid, but the whole thing was set up as a senior joke."
The Schillreffs appealed the decision to the Loudoun School Board.
Margaret Pinner, a Sterling Park neighbor and mother of one of Schillreff's friends, gathered a petition with 270 signatures that said, in part, "the punishment for the foolish throwing of a pie in the face of Mrs. Jean Bibb (is) totally excessive . . . To deny her any and all activities including the prom and the graduation ceremony is not only unfair but cruel and unjust."
The local newspaper, the Loudoun Times Mirror, wrote an editorial saying school officials "may have overreacted . . . Perhaps the best action that officials could have taken was to have requested an apology and to have suggested that pie-throwing in the future will be looked on as a distasteful way of having fun."
The school board met Tuesday and on a 5-to-3 vote defented a motion to allow Schillreff to attend graduation. The board then voted to uphold the penalty imposed by the Broad Run administration.
School board member Ann Kavanagh, who voted in favor of allowing Schillreff to attend graduation, said, "As far as I can say the entire hearing was held behind closed doors so I cannot discuss the testimony."
Robert Jarvis, the county school system's director of personnel and acting superintendent while Supt. Robert E. Butt is out of town, said, "I cannot explain to you the system's rationale for the decision. The board handles all students matters in executive session."
"I'm not at liberty to discuss what happened concerning the student. This is based on the advice of counsel," Jarvis said.
Elizabeth Pinner, a friend and classmate who two years ago "pied" Schillreff on the school grounds, said "The school is more or less in an uproar. Everyone feels the punishment was excessive and a lot of people have lost a lot of respect from the students." Schillreff said that two teachers have been "pied" in recent months without the perpetrators being punished. On the day of the class breakfast, Schillreff drove with five friends to a 7-Eleven food store and bought the pie. In the school cafeteria, "people were coming around and saying 'Are you going to throw it?' I was getting scared but kids were saying 'If you don't, I will,'" Schillreff said. "A group of about 75 to 100 gathered to cause a disturbance so somebody would come, but nobody did."
"Someone one went to the office to get Mrs. Bibb. She came down the hall and I stepped out from around the corner and pushed the pie in her face," Schillreff said.
Schillreff, a C student with a clean discipinary record until the incident, said that at a later meeting with school officials, "I apologized and told her I was sorry. I told them it wasn't meant to be disrespectful. Everybody looks forward to the prom and graduation. I just think it's very said."
Elizabeth Pinner said, "Almost the whole senior class was watching. A lot of people laughed until they saw Mrs. Bibbs reaction. The whole senior class was in on it. If Connie hadn't done it someone else would."
Schillreff's father, Fred, a union representative for the International Association of Firefighters, said, "I'm madder than hell. I think the school board, the principal and the vice principal have no feelings about justice tempered with mercy."