They wear yellow tee sirts that read God BLESS AMERICA, in black capital letters. They loudly sing the national anthem at school sports events.
At a footballl pep rally this fall, they marched silently in single file, carrying American flags. They have asked the principal to have American flags hung in all classrooms and the Pledge of Allegiance recited every day. They have been known to interrupt classes by rising in groups to sing "America, the Beautiful."
Not surprisingly, this group of 40 juniors and seniors at Fairfax County's Chantilly High School is known as The Americans.
Even less surprisingly, their patriotism -- and the way they have expressed it -- has brought them attention and has sparked controversy this fall among many of Chantilly's 2,700 students.
How much controversy, and how deeply it is felt, seems to depend on one's point of view.
Jimmy Dunn, the senior who organized The American, says, "We're not radicals, or narrowminded. Were not trying to shove anything down anybody's throat. And the only thing I've heard, from students and teachers, is praiise for what we've done. There hasn't been any controversy."
Principal Robert Davis agrees. "I don't see it as anything compelling. Some students have felt that theirs is kind of a blind patriotism. But it's never come to the forefront as any kind of administrative problem, and I don't expect it to."
But The Americans have been a major topic of conversation at Chantilly since an essay was published early last month in the student newspaper, The Purple Tide.
In the essay, assistant editor Vicki Magliano and reporter Annemarie Quigley condemned The Americans as "annoying and immature."
They charged the group -- which is all male and all white -- with using "cheap, backward slang for ethnic or political groups they don't happen to agree with." They also accused The Ameriicans of hoping to breed "an unquestioning generation" in which "racism and fascism flourish."
"We had hoped that McCarthyism died," Magliano and Quiigley wrote, "but it seems to be undergoing rejuvenation at Chantilly."
The day the article appeared, Magliano said, she was loudly called a "bitch" and a "communist" by members of The Americans who passed her in the lunch room. "On of them told me to go back to Russis," Magliano said. The Americans deny that the incident took place.
Another ranking Tide editor, who asked that his name be withheld, said he witnessed a disturbance earlier this fall that several of The Americans created on a school bus.
"They were running up and the aisle," he said, "saying the Redskins had lost a game the day before because they have 'too many niggers' on the team." The Americans also denied any involvement in this incident.
Just a few days before that, Richard McCloud, an English and journalism teacher, told his class that if he had been of draft age during the Vietnam War, he would have fled to Canada.
"After class, a member of (The Amer-icans) came up to me and said, 'If you don't like it here, why the hell don't you leave the country?'" said McCloud, who has taught at Chantilly for five years and says he has some serious concerns about the group.
"Their impulse is basically positive and good," he said. "They're looking for thtings to feel good about in their society. But I see it as potentially destructive and potentially dangerous."
The Americans are mystified by this line of reasoning.
"We're not Archie Bunders," said senior Charles Robey. "We're for things. We have our individual opinions, but we're nothing like the KKK or anything."
Indeed, The Americans insist that they are not even a group.
They point out that they have no officers, no constitution and no dues, and do not intend to have them. Nor have they applied for recognition as an official school organization. $"All we are," says junior Mike Tomajczyk, "is Americans. Same as you."
"People see us as a clique, I think," said Dunn, and he admits it is easy to understand why.
Besides sporting patriotic tee shirts, most members of The Americans chew tobacco and wear military-type haircuts. Many of them are varsity football players. $ but their chief interest is substance, not style, several members said.
Dunn, for example, says if someone throws a gum wrapper out the window of a car in which he is a passenger, "I'll make him turn around and go back and get it. Who wants an America that's full of litter?"
Gregory Lannes, a senior member, says he is not hoping to die in battle for the U.S., "but if I had to, I would -- proudly."
"Ain't nobody going to Canada in this group," added junior Craig Boerger.
Parents of The Amercans have been "backing us up 100 percent," said Tomajczyk, "just as long as we don't put down other people."
Principal Davis says no parents have called school officials to complain, "even though I'm sure they have heard about it, because of the tee shirts." He added that e and other school administrators are studying the group's flags-and-pledge request.
"They're just average, middle-class suburban kids who are discovering that their country is a pretty good place to live," says McCloud.
"They're mostly just stupid football players," says Quigley. "Maybe it's time we had more respect for people and less for flags."
"All we are," said Jimmy Dunn, "is mostly friends who like to play ball together and have a chew together, and who love our country."