A Roger Taney Junior High School student, suspended to a special room for misbehaving students, had pulled his brown leather jacket over his head and was fast asleep.
Another student, suspended to the room "for slamming doors," was waiting for his teacher to look the other way. He quickly passed a small note to a girl on the other side of a partition separating them. They both giggled and looked back into their books.
Another student in the special suspended room, called the Supervised Discipline Center (SDC), was writing the names of cars and motorcycles in bog block letters.
"These students are apparently not following the rules of the SDC," said Mildred Biedenkapp, principal of the Camp Springs Junior High School and one of the designers of the special suspension program for the Prince George's County school system. "They are supposed to be completing class work, and they are not supposed to be socializing with students in the room."
Biedenkapp, who spelled out the SDC rules to the student body before the program began, said, "Most students are cooperating, and most of them do not want to return to the SDC room."
The SDC room is different from the after-school study hall, said Biedenkapp. SDC students must bring bag lunches and remain in the classroom the whole school day.
No more than 10 students are placed in the SDC room for violations of the student conduct code which includes "cutting class, fighting and insubordination," said Biedenkapp.
The SDC is a pilot program operating in three of the county's 224 schools.School officials say the program is designed to lower the county's highly controversial student suspension figures.
The SDCs, in operation for nearly two monts, have already received high marks from school officials and parents, but little praise from misbehaving students.
A 14-year old student who had counted 667 holes in a wall located in front of her desk, told a reporter, "You can't do nothin' in here."
And still another student, wiht his desk pushed up against the wall, was furiously writing when he said, "I'm just going to get my work done so I can leave. I ain't never coming back in here."
Teachers have a positive view of the SDC room. "I think it is terrific. It has decidedly cut down on suspensions from school," said Elaine Barney, a Spanish and English teacher at Roger B. Taney Junior High School.
Rebecca Tisdale, whose child was suspended into the SDC for fighting, said "it gave my son a chance to catch up . . . The program also keeps the children off the street.
Leon Parry, a member of the Prince George's County Human Relations Education Committee, said the SDC's "are constructive." Parry's committee studied the county school system last year and found there were more than 17,000 suspensions inthe school system including a disproportionate number of black students.
Parry said the in-school suspension centers will give teachers a new alternatives to suspending students out of schools. He said students who would have been suspended and sent home will now remain in school to complete class work.
The in-school suspension centers are not designed for the students who is constantly in trouble, said school officials. Chronic repeaters and those who commit serious offenses are still sent home.