At Rockville High School it's "the courtyard." At Kensington Junior High it's known as "the trees." It's called "the logs" at Seneca Valley, "the pits" and "the hill" at Einstein and at Bethesda-Chevy Chase it's just "the front lawn."
By whatever name, the courtyard, the trees, the logs, the pits, the hill and the front lawn share one common characteristic: Those are the places on or near school grounds where students gather during school hours to smoke marijuana.
There are similar spots at almost all Montgomery County high schools. During the last five years, students have come to view them as virtual sancturies for dope smoking as enforcement attempts have been either half-hearted or nonexistent.
It had reached the point, said Einstein science teacher Frank Yelen, where many students were barely aware that smoking marijuana was illegal.
Any questions over the legality of marijuana smoking in Montgomery County schools have been abruptly dispelled in the last four weeks. County police, in a series of raids throughout the school system, have seized more than 140 students on illegal drug charges, the vast majority of them for smoking or possession of marijuana on or near school grounds.
"We just felt we had to do something to bring attention to what's happeining at the schools," said Montgomery County's tough, outspoken police chief Robert J. diGrazia. "We wanted to set the parameters at the beginning of the school year. We watched the young people for a couple of weeks, then we moved in."
In the month since the police raids began with the early morning arrests of seven students by plainclothes agents at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the reaction has been emotional, varied and intense.
Students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Whitman staged protest rallies, blocking traffic briefly before dispersing. Later a group of students leaders, while condemning marijuana smoking during school hours, passed a resolution calling for decriminalization of marijuana use and voiced objections to the police raids.
Teachers and administrators, taken by surprise by the raids, have endorsed the actions although some administrators appeared miffed at first that they were not informed in advance.
Others, asking "Why now?" suggested the raids might be politically inspired and an effort to bolster the chief's public image in the face of criticism from rank and file officers.
Others voiced flat-out support of the crackdown.
"How can a teacher expect to teach a child who is asleep, disoriented or stoned in class?" said Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) president Hank Heller. "It's difficult to teach a class on Friday afternoon if the local pusher is around."
Parents, many expressing concern at the extent of drug use, were quick to flood police, county and school officials with calls supporting the action. In one day alone, County Executive james Gleason's office reported receiving more than 20 unsolicited calls endorsing the crackdown.
"Frankly, I feel whatever has to be done," said Gaithersburg High School PTA president Eugene Shanklin. "We were really appalled that the problem existed at the level it did."
After four weeks of surprise raids, the courtyard, trees, logs, pits, hill and front lawn are less populated as students realize those spots are no longer sanctuaries from the law.
"People are paranoid that things are going to happen and whoever is around them might be a nare," said Phil Ehr, president of the Montgomery County Association of Student Councils. "People have cut down smoking in school, but haven't cut out smoking.
"Schools are not a place for drugs, it hurts the education of a person," he said. "We just object to the way it's being handled."
Brian Redmond, a member of the student council at Rockville High, said, "People are moving their parties to other place. I think it has curbed it (drug use in school), but not as much as they wanted to."
One convenient place to relocate has been the automobile. "People are getting in their cars and cruising between classes," said a Whitman High student who was arrested during one of the school raids. "people still get high in cars," added a Seneca Valley senior.
As a practical matter Chief diGrazia is quick to admit that the 140 plus arrests in the last month barely scratched the surface of pot smoking.
What he hopes to accomplish, he says, is to dramatize to the community the seriousness of the drug problem.
"We have to make an impression on everyone that, 'Hey, we just can't allow this to continue,'" said the chief.
"We're talking about laws that are on the books. We're talking about evidence that gets stronger all the time that there are serious physical and pschological problems for people who are involved in drugs.
"To a great extent the school systems have abandoned their role as disciplinarians. You have to be a disciplinarian or tey'll run all over you. We don't want to be on the campus, but dammit, we'll be there until this is cleared up," he said.
Denying any political motivation, diGrazia said he acted after a year of attending civic association meetings during which the subject of high school drug use was brought up continually.
"It came up all the time," he said. "People would ask, 'Isn't it true that drugs are going wild on the campus and what do you plan to do about it?"
The crackdown was planned carefully during the summer. Police first decided to break with the traditional practice of notifying principals of raids in advance. DiGrazia went to County Executive Gleason who promised full support for the policy.
While no one denies the existence of drug use in the schools, estimates of its extent varied substantially.
When asked what percentage of students use marijuana during the school day, answers from students, principals and teachers generally varied between 5 and 25 percent.
At Walt Whitman High School, in a survey by the student newspaper in the spring of 1977, 23.8 percent of more than 700 students surveyed said they got high in school on marijuana or hashish at least once a week. Nine percent said they got high during school two to three times a week.
While stressing that the core of students are academically oriented and stay away from drug during school hours, Einstein gym teacher Liz Bouve guessed 25 percent of her students may be high occassionally.
"I call them space cadets, they are air headed," said Bouve, who noted that students on drugs tend to be passive, listless and sleepy and don't learn anything.
While the Montgomery County Education Association passed a resolution supporting the police crackdown, some teachers objected to the tactics, which included handcuffing students in fron of hundreds of their fellow stundents and teachers.
"Grandstanding at lunch in front of 300 people," observed one Einstein teacher.
The arrests came in marked contrast to past policy where offenders were called into the principal's office and police notified.
"They treat you like you committed a murder or something," said a Whitman student who was handcuffed, fingerprinted, photographed, stripped and searched after her arrest.
A Seneca Valley student said he was told to lie face down on the ground after his arrest. Moments later he said he was handcuffed and paraded past the school in front of hundreds of students.
Additionally, some students felt themselves the victims of a gross injustice.
"People have been getting high at this school for God knows how long," said a student arrested at Whitman. "They (the police) should have started before now."
"Most kids understand why they're busting us," said a Seneca Valley senior. "It's not too cool to get high and go to school. Most people are mad at the way they're going about it. We'll cool off for a month and then we'll be able to get high again."
In some cases the trauma of the arrests was greater for the parents than for the students arrested.
"In the beginning I thought the whole thing was very worthwhile, and the arrests were good," said a Potomac parent whose child was arrested.
When the child was arrested, the mother said she felt the punishement was deserved because smoking on school grounds is against the law. But later, after police pressed her child to name the source of the drugs, the mother sympathized with her child's reluctance to inform on friends.
The mother, who described her child as a B student and basically a good child, said she knew the child "would smoke (marijuana) at parties." The mother tried to discourage it, but came to accept it "reluctantly as what kids do nowadays, like we used to do with tobacco. I never thought (my child) would do it at school."
At this point, the charges against her child are unresolved. Police officials say they will drop charges against about 70 percent of those arrested for a variety of reasons. Among them are cooperation with authorities in identifying distributors, no previous history of arrests and evidence of contrition and remorse.
Many will be referred to a court diversion program in which they will spend a day working at such chores as moving lawns on public property or picking up trash in parks in exchange for dismissal of the charges.
Of those who are referred to the state's attorney office for prosecution, virtually all who are "found involved" will be put on probation by the juvenile court, an assistant state's attorney said.
For adults, the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana is one year in jail. Those arrested will have police records, but since most are juveniles, the records will never be made public.
County School Superintendent Charles M. Bernado said midway through the raids that students found distributing drugs will be expelled. Those arrested for possession on school property face suspension. Something less than half the students arrested have actually been arrested on school property.
Some school officials said they feel media coverage of the crackdown has exaggerated the extent of the drug problem.
"I feel that the coverage has been disproportionate to the problem," said Bethesda-Chevy Chase counselor Betty Spencer. "It gives the impression that there are a lot of potheads around here. That's not true."
Late last week, the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, while condemning the use of drugs during school hours, said the presence of police officers "has caused serious educational problems including the creation of an atmosphere of distrust and paranoia, friction between staff and students and a general disrespect of authority figures."
The group called for "an end to police-initiated arrests of students allegedly using marijuana or other illegal drugs on or near school property during school hours."
DiGrazia, however, discounted the contention that police presence disrupts the educational process.
"How can school be a learning experience for the majority of kids who aren't on drugs when they see this going on all around them, when they have to run a gauntlet of pot smokers to get a class?"