Clinton Christian Academy, a strict Baptist school in Prince George's County, expelled a 10th grade girl yesterday for wearing pants to a school football game, riding on the all-male team's bus after the game and acting "belligerent" when asked to explain her actions.
William Spence, the school's administrator, said 15-year-old Cindy Davies was expelled because "we felt her behavior was inappropriate to our school environment."
The academy is one of 50 or 60 increasingly popular, private Christian schools in the Washington area that enforce strict discipline and dress codes and use corporal punishment, primarily paddling, for severe breaches of their rules.
Spence said girls who attend Clinton are not permitted to wear pants to school or to school-related activities, and like all other students, are forbidden to drink, smoke, or dance, even when off school grounds.
Clinton earned a reputation as one of the strictest Christian schools in the area two years ago when it tried to deny a diploma to Michael Bongiorni, the school's valedictorian, after he had gone out dancing and drinking one night before graduation. Although they eventually allowed Bongiorni to graduate, school officials refused to let him participate in graduation ceremonies.
Spence said Davies' expulsion resulted from "a whole history of things, of uncooperativeness in class." He said the girl's attitude and "inappropriate dress" at a school football game in Suffolk, Va., last Saturday led to the decision to expel her.
"Then I found out she was riding on the bus with the football team and she was the only girl," Spence said.
Shirley Davies, the student's mother, said yesterday the entire family had traveled to Virginia to see their son, who is an 11th grader at Clinton, play in the football game.
"It was cold and we were all wearing pants. I gave her permission to wear the slacks," Davies said.
After the game was over, she said the family drove back to Prince George's behind the two buses the school uses for the team and its cheerleaders. After a lunch stop, Davies said her daughter jumped on the team's bus to ride it for a short hop to a gas station, but returned to the family car a few minutes later. It was this incident that apparently upset the school administration.
"I couldn't understand why they were saying she had been kicked out of the school permanently. She didn't have any demerits and I never heard from them that she had an attitude problem. You have a couple of people in that school who are trying to make something nasty and dirty out of nothing," Davies said.
She said the school "is not being the Christain place it says it is. To me, Christianity is a loving thing. It's not that you say, "This person is a dirty rat' and has to go."
Spence said he had not intended to expel Cindy Davies when he called her into the office yesterday. "We called her in to talk about the incident. But the child was very belligerent with me and saying, 'so?' and 'I don't care.' If she did that with me, what must she be like in the classroom?
"I told her maybe we have instilled in her some things that she can use to go on and be successful with," Spence said.