Ann Bumgardner teaches 11th grade English at Washington's Roosevelt High School. But as any English teacher will tell you, the job is as much to teach good citizenship as to pound home Robert Frost.
And one of the chief things a good citizen doesn't do is cheat.
But Ann Bumgardner doesn't just stand up at the front of her classroom and tell her students that cheating is mean, naughty and nasty.
She's a lot more direct about it. She makes each student sign a pledge, before every nine-week grading period.
It says that anyone caught cheating at any time, and in any way, will automatically receive an F.
Bumgardner says she has used the automatic F system for all six of her years at Roosevelt. She says she has caught "seven or eight" cheaters with it, has given them all F -- and has never heard another word about it.
Until last week.
What she heard then was her standards crumbling.
It seems that last June, during the last week of school, Bumgardner was giving a vocabulary quiz. The quiz consisted of her standing at the front of her classroom and reciting words -- "clandestine, pragmatic, bucolic, that kind of thing."
The students were supposed to write down the correct spelling and definition of each word. The entire quiz consited of only 20 words, and it counted only 2 percent of each student's grade.
Midway through the quiz, Bumgardner noticed that one young man was repeatedly glancing into his lap, then back at his test papaer. "I just asked him to stand up," said Bumgardner.
Sure enought, a crib sheet slipped to the floor. And into thin air slipped the C that Bumgardner says the boy would have earned in the course even if he had gotten a zero on the quiz.
Bumgardner duly recorded the young man's F, and thought nothing of it. Cheating was cheating, wasn't it?
But last week, three months later, Bumgardner was ordered by the assistant superintendent of the D.C. Public Schools' Region Five (which includes Roosevelt) to rescind the F.
Bumgardner was ordered to assign the student a zero on the quiz in question, but to add that zero in with all the other test scores and criteria used to determine a grade.
Bumgardner is understandably furious. So are many of her fellow teachers. "I'm not going to change that grade without a fight," Bumgardner said.
Nor, she said, is she going to abandon her system of requiriing her students to sign her no-cheating pledge, even though she is under pressure from the school administration to do so.
"It works because it lets students know where I stand and where they stand," Bumgardner said. "They can't say afterwards that they didn't know this (an automatic F) was the case."
The F of June became The Incident of September because the student Bumgardner caugnt red-handed complained to his parents. They in turn complained to Carl Hymes, assistant superintendent in charge of Region Five and Roosevelt's former principal.
According to Hymes, the parents did not argue that their son was right to have cheated. They did argue that he deserved another chance. They felt that measures to prevent cheating should be "fair, not punitive or vindictive," Hymes said.
They also threatened to sue, Hymes said. He sought counsel and was advised that the schools were in a poor legal position, largely because a minor cannot be held accountable for signing a contract (in this case, Bumgardner's I-won't-cheat pledge).
"To all appearances, the student is getting off very lightly," Hymes said. "But the other side of it is that we're not in the business of punishing youngsters. . . .
"Let me assure you, though, that he will have netted a zero for that particular incident. But we have to indicate our fairness by factoring the zero in with everything else the student has done. We may suspect he cheated on other tests, but we have no proof."
Nor, I suspect, do we have a teacher who will ever again be quite so vigilant in teaching students good citizenship.
And that may be a bigger shame than any crib sheet.
An especially heartfelt top-of-the-morning to J. Carter Richardson, of Kilmarnock, Va., who writes to say he has invented a new way to deal with those hordes who are always telling him to "Have a nice day."
What's the antidote? According to Richardson, he usually replies: "I'm sorry, but I've made other arrangements."
Paul Montague McVey, of Herndon, just moved back to the Washington area after being gone for several years. Naturally, one of the early orders of business was to hunt for a house to buy.
"I saw a place I liked, but every time I called up, there was no answer," McVey says. "It took me a week before I realized I wasn't calling the realtor; I was calling the price."