Sometime between 11:15 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. on the last Tuesday in September, an unknown number of men visited Crossland High School in Camp Springs. They came to recruit students for the Ku Klux Klan "youth corps."
Two men, aged "about 19 or 20," approached a stocky senior standing on the sidewalk in the parking lot at the rear of the school and asked if the student would be interested in joining the Klan.
"He asked me how I felt about black people. I told him I had some black friends and it wouldn't be right [to join the Klan]," said the senior, who asked not to be identified.
The student took a few steps around the corner of the building and was confronted by a reporter from a local newspaper, who asked if he had talked with Klan members. The student said he replied briefly, then went on to his class.
On the following Friday, an article appeared in the newspaper reporting that Klan members said they had recruited 100 white students in the Crossland parking lot.
The article touched off a small wave of fear, disbelief and indignation in the county, leading both the County Council and the school board to take official notice of the alleged incident.
While at least two students reported talking with or seeing Klan members at Crossland, school officials and student leaders questioned the Klan claims on the number of students who were recruited. Principal Gerald Howie said he had heard nothing of Klan activity at the school until two weeks ago, when a teacher found some Klan literature on the floor of a classroom and brought it to Howie.
The article that touched off the concern quotes "Klan sources" as saying that 100 students were signed up for the organization's youth corps for those aged 10 to 17, on Thursday, Sept. 25. It quoted a black student as saying that the Klan members came to the school "in these black cars and caught all the white boys who were trying to sneak to McDonalds." The black youth, a senior, said in a later interview that he saw the men in the black cars on the following Monday or Tuesday, not on Sept. 25 as was reported.
The klan sources said they planned to visit all 19 county high schools by the end of the year, according to the article.
Last week, the County Council unanimously approved strong language in a letter to School Board Chairman Jo Ann T. Bell. The letter, deploring the incident and backing school officials' efforts to restrict access to the schools, was written by County Council chairman Parris N. Glendening.
"An intrusion into [the schools] by groups or organizations that exist through racial hatred and advocate acts of violence can only serve to increase the potential of violence and to needlessly disrupt the learnng process," the letter said.
In the letter, Glendening cited a cross burning in early September at a Brentwood church and the recent distribution of National Socialist White Peoples Party leaflets in his University Park area. He said county citizens must be sensitized to the incidents and that elected officials must go on record against them.
Glendening said he has been doing his part in the five to six speaking engagements and meetings he has with community groups every week by saying "as forcefully as I can without being shrill that while we have different political opinions, we will not tolerate extremism."
Two days later the school board responded with strong words of its own in the first resolution by student board member Reginald Moore:
"I move that this board express public disapproval of the KKK and the American Nazi Party and what they stand for, and their attempt to recruit students in Prince George's County Schools," declared Moore, and the motion was carried in a chorus of "ayes."
Still, school officials and several students question the claims of the Klan that 100 students were signed up in the back parking lot of Crossland high school on the Tuesday or the Thursday cited in reports.
Students are not allowed in the lot, used for student cars, during lunch periods, and Principal Howie is in the habit of driving through the lot during lunch to find offenders.
A row of vocational shops have garage-like doors that open onto the lot and none of the teachers or students reported seeing anything like Klan recruiting on a large scale. It was also raining on both days.
Student leaders say that if large-scale recruitment had taken place, the news would have traveled fast among the 1,900 Crossland students, and that they had heard nothing about the incident at the time it allegedly occured.
"It was laughed about, most students don't believe it," said student government president Jean Anne Hillis, who has been interviewed by radio and television stations since the alleged recruitment.
Glenn Colbert, building supervisor at Crossland for 15 years, walks the campus grounds every day and doubted the story too.
"Somebody could have driven up and said something to one person and they probably added 99 more to it," he said.